Gadafy's son reported to be seeking terms from rebels


ABU DHABI – Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy’s son, Saif al-Islam, has approached rebels to negotiate an exit from power for his father over the last few days, an aide to National Transitional Council leader Mahmoud Jebril has said.

We are talking now of the last stage of this operation, Mohamed Al Akari told Bloomberg Television in Abu Dhabi. “Gadafy won’t be allowed to remain in Libya even though he is dreaming of staying in the country,” Mr Al Akari said.

South Africa and Senegal were among the countries that might offer him a safe haven, he added.

Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd said in Abu Dhabi, where the 22-member Libya Contact Group was meeting, that Gadafy had sent out “feelers” to negotiate an end to the conflict in a sign of rising “despair”.

The Libyan leader’s isolation has increased in recent weeks with a series of high-profile defections, including generals and two colonels. He has previously said he would rather die in Libya than leave. A senior US official said yesterday he was not aware of the proposal.

Before the contact group meeting began yesterday, Spanish foreign minister Trinidad Jimenez spoke to reporters about the efforts to negotiate the dictator’s departure.

“We still dont even know if Gadafy will accept a negotiated exit, but of course there are many countries willing to facilitate this because it will end the conflict, Ms Jimenez said. “Finding a place for him is now the critical issue, since everyone has agreed he has to go.” She said Turkey and South Africa were involved in working on a solution.

Uganda said on March 30th it would consider a request for political asylum, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez still calls Gadafy a friend.

Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade arrived yesterday in Benghazi, the rebel-held stronghold in eastern Libya. He intends to encourage negotiations during his trip, his spokesman said.

Gadafy and his family have been forced underground by Nato’s bombing campaign against command centres and military sites. The operation has escalated this week, with air strikes day and night. But alliance defence ministers were warned yesterday that without extra assets and participants the campaign could falter.

“Those who are bearing the brunt of the strike burden are increasingly pressed,” said Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, at a meeting in Brussels. “I think they’ll be able to sustain it. But the question is just how much more painful it becomes, if other countries that have the capabilities [...] don’t step up.”

Only eight of 28 Nato member states are involved in the bombing campaign. France and Britain are doing most, while Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Italy and Canada are also heavily involved.

At a closed meeting of Nato defence ministers on Wednesday, Mr Gates singled out the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey for refusing to take part in the strikes. He also voiced his exasperation with Germany and Poland, which have refused to commit to any aspects of the Libyan operations.

In addition to the military pressure, international criminal court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said on Wednesday he had evidence linking Gadafy to mass rape by government soldiers, and was considering bringing charges on the issue. He has already asked the court to issue arrest warrants for Gadafy, Saif al-Islam, and Libya’s spy chief, Abdullah Senussi, for crimes against humanity while trying to crush the rebellion. – (Bloomberg, Guardianservice)