Rebel forces fail to take oil town of Brega after a fourth straight day of fighting, despite overnight air strikes.
|Despite Gaddafi’s public insistence on staying, in private it appears he may be open to a negotiated deal|
Libya is ready to negotiate reforms, such as elections or a referendum, but only its own people can decide whether Muammar Gaddafi should stay on as leader, a government spokesperson has said.
“We could have any political system, any changes: constitution, election, anything, but the leader has to lead
this forward. This is our belief,” Musa Ibrahim, the Libyan information minister, told reporters on Tuesday.
He said no conditions could be imposed on Libya from abroad, even though the country was ready to discuss proposals aimed at bringing more democracy, transparency, press freedom and anti-corruption laws.
“Don’t decide our future from abroad, give us a proposal for change from within,” he said.
Ibrahim described Gaddafi as “the safety valve” for the unity of the country’s tribes and people.
“We think he is very important to lead any transition to a democratic and transparent model.
“The leader has no official position to step down from. … He has a symbolic significance for the Libyan people. How Libya is governed is a different matter. What kind of political system is implemented in the country is a different matter. This is a question we can talk about.”
‘Never attacked civilians’
Ibrahim accused some Western leaders of trying to topple Gaddafi out of personal interest or for economic gain.
“We know there are some politicians in power in the West who just have a personal problem with the leader … Others have economic interests which they think would be served better if the government collapsed.”
He denied allegations that government forces were involved in any attacks against civilians.
“We are not attacking any civilians, I assure you. We never in this crisis attacked any civilians. … I will not stand and speak for a government that kills civilians. Who do you think we are, monsters?”
Ibrahim also criticised Italy’s decision to recognise the Opposition National Council, saying that it is up to Libyans to decide who represents them.
Italy, Libya’s former colonial master, on Monday said Gaddafi and his family must leave power and the international community has to stand united against regime diplomacy.
Call to relinquish power
Meanwhile, Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi told Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Abdel Ati al-Obeidi that Gaddafi and his family must relinquish power.
Al-Obeidi was in Malta following talks with government officials in Greece and Turkey on ways to end the Libyan conflict.
“The prime minister reiterated the Maltese government’s position that the resolutions of the United Nations must be respected, that the Gaddafi government must step down, that Colonel Gaddafi and his family should leave and there should be an immediate ceasefire and a process to enable the Libyan people to make its democratic choices,” the government said in a statement.
Malta has stayed out of the United Nations-mandated military actions against Tripoli but has sent humanitarian aid to Misurata on trawlers.
Al-Obeidi also visited the Turkish capital Ankara on Monday in a bid to help negotiate a ceasefire with opposition forces in the North African nation, a day after he visited Greece on a similar mission.
In a statement from the Greek foreign ministry, its government said it was committed to seeking a “political, diplomatic solution” to the crisis in Libya.
Turkey also sent humanitarian aid in the form of a hospital ferry to rescue about 250 injured people in Misurata on Sunday.
Elsewhere on Monday, the United States lifted financial sanctions against Moussa Koussa, Libya’s former foreign minister, in the hopes of encouraging other officials in Gaddafi’s regime to defect. Koussa severed ties with Gaddafi’s government and fled to Britain last week.
“Koussa’s defection and the subsequent lifting of sanctions against him should encourage others within the
Libyan government to make similar decisions to abandon the Gaddafi regime,” David Cohen, the Treasury’s acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a blog posting on the Treasury website.