African Union delegation arrives in rebel stronghold of Benghazi after talks with Libyan leader in the capital Tripoli.
Libya’s opposition Transitional National Council has rejected outright the African Union’s proposal to negotiate a way out from the country’s deepening crisis.
The Benghazi-based council, which is demanding an end to Muammar Gaddafi’s decades-long rule, said the “road map” set out by a delegation of five African presidents was “outdated”, following the deaths and destruction wreaked in the past month since the proposals were first outlined.
“The demand of our people of our people from day one was that Gaddafi must step down,” spokesman Mustafa Jabril said.
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“Any initiative which does not include this key popuar demand will not be regarded. Muammar Gaddafi and his sons should depart immediately.”
Jabril threatened that pro-democracy fighters would march on Tripoli.
“We cannot negotiate the blood of our martyrs,” said Jabril. “We will die with them or be rewarded with victory.”
He also thanked the international community and coalition forces for their support, which he said had saved the lives of civilians.
The road map was a five-point plan which called for a ceasefire and the protection of civilians, alongside the provision of humanitarian aid for Libyans and foreign workers in the country.
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The plan also called for dialogue between the two sides, an “inclusive transitional period” and political reforms which “meet the aspirations of the Libyan people”.
Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee, reporting from Benghazi, summed up Jabril’s words as: “No deal.”
“There’s a particular military style of strategy at work here – and that is that they’d rather ‘die on their feet than live on their knees’.”
The African leaders met yesterday with Gaddafi, who they said “accepted” the proposals.
The African Union’s plan had been given a cautious welcome in capitals around the world, with British foreign secretary William Hague stating that any ceasefire agreement must meet the terms of UN resolutions in full.
Franco Frattini, Italian foreign minister, said it was unlikely Gaddafi would respect any ceasefire, “after the horrific crimes enacted”.
And NATO’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said that any ceasefire must be “credible and verifiable”.
Jacob Zuma, the South African president, said Tripoli had “accepted” the African Union”s plan for a ceasefire which would halt a NATO bombing campaign that destroyed 26 loyalist tanks on Sunday alone.
But anti-Gaddafi fighters doubted the Libyan leader would adhere to such a deal.
“The world has seen these offers of ceasefires before and within 15 minutes [Gaddafi] starts shooting again,” Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, a spokesman for the Transitional National Council, told the AFP news agency.
|Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee, reporting from Benghazi, says the strategy of the council is that ‘they’d rather die on their feet than live on their knees’|
They would negotiate a political transition to democracy with certain senior regime figures but only on the condition that Gaddafi and his sons leave the country, they said on Sunday.
People in Benghazi were asking whether the proposals were a “genuine attempt at conflict resolution” or “an attempt by people who have close economic and political ties to Gaddafi to try and shore up the appearance of legitimacy”, our correspondent said.
The revolt against Gaddafi’s 41-year reign began as a wave of protests across the country in late February but soon escalated into a civil war after Gaddafi’s troops fired on demonstrators and armed fighters seized several eastern towns.
The battle for Libya’s third largest city, Misurata,continues, as Gaddafi’s troops shelled two neighbourhoods on Monday. The city has been the scene of fierce battles in recent weeks and has been largely closed off to reporters.
“Heavy and fierce fighting is now taking place at the eastern entrance to the city and in the centre … on Tripoli Street,” a resident named Abdelsalam told Reuters by telephone on Monday afternoon.
The government’s troops have also pushed the rebels back on the eastern front, launching a major attack on the town of Ajdabiya on Saturday before being repelled by rebel forces.
Libyans outside the airport echoed the rebels’ official demands, saying they appreciated the African Union’s efforts but wanted Gaddafi to step down.
|From Tripoli, Al Jazeera’s Anita Mcnaught explains why the rebels refused the plan|
“The main thing we want is for Gaddafi and his family to get out and to be judged … And we want the withdrawal of all troops from the towns,” Azza Hussein, a doctor waiting with the crowds outside the airport, said.
“Gaddafi is a big liar, so we are afraid if there is a ceasefire he won”t follow it,” Abdullah Barud, 17, another protester, said.
In the 1990s, Gaddafi oriented Libya away from the Arab world and towards the sub-Sahara, calling for a “United States of Africa”and cultivating close ties with a number of rulers and some rebel movements.
Libya has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism, telecommunications, banking and agriculture across several sub-Saharan countries via the Libya Africa Portfolio (LAP).
The rebels have accused Gaddafi of deploying African mercenariesagainst them – without providing much hard evidence – and have said they would be raising the subject with the delegation.