Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has accepted a “road map” for a ceasefire with rebels, according to a delegation of African leaders.
The announcement followed a meeting between the leaders and Gaddafi on Sunday in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, just hours after NATO air raids targeted his tanks, helping the rebels push back government forces who had been advancing quickly towards their eastern stronghold.
The African Union delegation on Monday arrived in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The rebels said they would not accept a truce that leaves Gaddafi in power.
But the terms of the road map were unclear, including the matter of whether it would require Gaddafi to pull his troops out of cities as demanded by the rebels.
“We have completed our mission with the brother leader, and the brother leader’s delegation has accepted the road map as presented by us,” Jacob Zuma, the South African president, said.
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The AU mission, headed by Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the Mauritanian president, arrived in Tripoli on Sunday.
Besides Zuma and Abdel Aziz, the delegation includes Amadou Toumani Toure, Denis Sassou Nguessou and Yoweri Museveni – respectively the presidents of Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
Gaddafi made his first appearance in front of the foreign media in weeks when he joined the AU delegation at his Bab al-Aziziyah compound.
The committee said in a statement that it had decided to go along with a road map adopted in March, which calls for an end to hostilities, “diligent conveying of humanitarian aid” and “dialogue between the Libyan parties”.
Speaking in Tripoli, Ramtane Lamamra, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, said the issue of Gaddafi’s departure had come up in the talks but declined to give details.
“There was some discussion on this but I cannot report on this. It has to remain confidential,” he said.
“It’s up to the Libyan people to chose their leaders democratically.”
Matter of implementation
Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Tripoli, said that Gaddafi’s acceptance of the road map was no surprise.
With all attempts at a ceasefire so far ignored by both sides, it remains to be seen whether the AU deal will be any different, she said.
“The devil is not in the detail, the devil is in the implementation,” she said.
Neither is the AU proposing to send any kind of peacekeeping force.
|AU Plan: Key Points
When Zuma’s jet touched down in Tripoli, he was met by crowds of Gaddafi supporters, waving banners saying: “No to foreign intervention.”
Nabila Ramdani, a French journalist and Middle East expert, said the situation with regard to Libya had reached not only a military but also a political deadlock.
“It’s quite worrying,” she told Al Jazeera. “Unfortunately, my view about the African Union is that it will appear as not being a credible group of people to be in a position to broker a deal on behalf of Gaddafi.
“They are a group of dictators themselves and they won’t be taken very seriously given that they’re from very brutal regimes which are in many ways far worse than the Gaddafi regime.”
Ahmad Bani, a rebel spokesman, rejected a negotiated outcome to the conflict.
“There is no other solution than the military solution, because this dictator’s language is annihilation, and people who speak this language only understand this language,” he told Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee, reporting from the opposition stronghold in Benghazi, said there is “clearly a question over what people think the motivation of the AU visit is.”
People are asking whether it is a “genuine attempt at conflict resolution” or whether it is “an attempt by people who have close economic and political ties to Gaddafi to try and shore up the appearance of legitimacy”, he said.
‘Breakthrough’ in Ajdabiya
On the battlefront, NATO aircraft destroyed 25 tanks on the outskirts of Ajdabiya and Misurata, helping to halt major assaults by Gaddafi’s forces.
NATO said it had hit 11 tanks outside Ajdabiya, which Gaddafi’s troops had earlier threatened to overrun, and 14 more on the outskirts of Misurata, a lone rebel bastion in western Libya which has been under siege for six weeks.
|Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton reports on Ajdabiya, city that has borne the brunt of constantly shifting frontlines
A Reuters reporter saw six burning hulks surrounded by 15 charred and dismembered bodies in two sites 305 metres apart on Ajdabiya’s western approaches.
Opposition fighters said four of their men were killed in the battle for Ajdabiya.
Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from the north of Ajdabiya, said “a breakthrough came late morning”.
“NATO destroyed 11 Gaddafi tanks to the west of the city, and the shelling on Ajdabiya stopped. The rebels were back in control.”
She described the city as something of a “ghost town” as many residents have fled since fighting erupted a few weeks ago.
Rebels fought off an assault by Gaddafi’s forces on the besieged western city of Misurata on Saturday, losing up to 30 men.
A rebel who identified himself as Abdelsalem told Reuters that Gaddafi’s troops had attacked Misurata on three fronts.
“Medical workers and rebels told me that at least 30 rebel fighters were killed,” he said.
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Mustafa Abdulrahman, a rebel spokesman, said Saturday’s fighting centred on a road to Misurata port, while NATO carried out several attacks on forces loyal to Gaddafi.
Abdulrahman praised what he called a positive change from NATO. Rebels have complained for days that NATO has been too slow to respond to government attacks.
NATO said apart from tanks and armoured vehicles, its jets had also struck ammunition stockpiles being used to resupply forces involved in the shelling of Misurata and other population centres.
Rebels say people are crammed five families to a house in the few safe districts to escape weeks of sniper, mortar and rocket fire.
There are severe shortages of food, water and medical supplies and hospitals are overflowing.
Doctors said last week that 200 people had been killed in Misurata since fighting broke out there in late February.