Libya approaches Spain for NATO ceasefire

Spain says Libyan prime minister has sent message, seeking end to airstrikes by military alliance.

Libya Ceasefire
Libyan prime minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi has reportedly suggested a political dialogue [AFP]

The Spanish government has received a proposal from Libyan prime minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi seeking a ceasefire with NATO states.

“We have received a message from the Libyan government seeking an accord for a possible ceasefire,” a spokesman for the office of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, said on Thursday.

The official said Spain – one of the several NATO allies involved in the coalition’s ongoing military operation in Libya – must have the same say on such a possibility as the other European governments.

“Of course we are all in favour of there being a ceasefire in Libya but for this there has to be a series of conditions, political circumstances,” the spokesman said.

At a news conference in Tripoli, Al-Mahmoudi said, “We are ready for a ceasefire. The solution cannot be a military one. There must be debate among Libyans far away from bombs.”

But he added: “Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of the Libyan people, if Muammar Gaddafi goes all the Libyan people go.”

Rebels insist Gaddafi must resign before any kind of talks with the government can begin.

Further details about the content and format of the message were not available.

However, the White House has dismissed the latest proposal.

Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser, speaking in Deauville, France, at the G8 summit, said the United States did not see the new Libyan ceasefire offer as credible because it was not accompanied by action.

Libya was not complying with UN demands and its forces were still attacking population centres, so the United States would continue with the military campaign, he told reporters.

Talks offered

Spain’s announcement comes after the Independent, a British daily, first obtained a copy of the letter that the Libyan prime minister was sending to international leaders, proposing an immediate UN-monitored ceasefire in the north African country.

According to the paper, the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, was ready to enter into unconditional talks with rebels, declare an amnesty for both sides and draft a new constitution.

Al-Mahmoudi promised to appoint an executive committee to “foresee the ceasefire and propose a mechanism for a political dialogue”, according to the leaked letter.

“A process of reconciliation will be initiated which will include amnesty and compensation to all victims of the conflict,” he continued. “We are ready to talk to help mediate a ceasefire and to initiate discussions on the future form of constitutional government.

“Let us create a road-map to the future,” he urged. “What has occurred in Libya is part of a wider series of events throughout the Arab world. We understand this. We are ready and we know what is required of us.”

Mortar attack in Misurata

Amid the talks of the new ceasefire proposal, Gaddafi forces bombarded the rebel-held city of Misurata with mortars on Thursday.

The bombardment of the port town was the heaviest for days. A Reuters reporter in the city, said the attack killed one rebel and wounded five.

Suleim Al-Faqih, one of the rebels, said the clashes started when rebels attacked pro-Gaddafi forces who were using an excavator to dig a trench to block a road. “We fired on them and advanced. They fell back and started firing mortars,” he told Reuters.

Libya has been mired in a conflict pitting Gaddafi’s forces against opposition rebels since the eruption of massive anti-government protests in mid-February.

The international coaltion began their intervention in March, launching air raids and missile strikes under a UN resolution calling for civilian protection from Gaddafi forces. NATO took command of the air campaign on March 31.

NATO airstrikes intensified in Tripoli this week with France and Britain deploying attack helicopters, while US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron both warned on Wednesday that victory did not seem likely in the near future.

Source: News Agencies