Gadafy son to negotiate ceasefire

 

A son of Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy said this evening that his forces were holding back in fighting with rebels in western Libya and hoped that a negotiated ceasefire could be in place by tomorrow.

Speaking in English to foreign journalists flown to Tripoli under official escort, Saif al-Islam Gadafy said of fighting in two western cities: "In Misrata, in Zawiya, we have a problem.We are dealing with terrorists ... The army decided not to attack the terrorists, and to give a chance to negotiation. Hopefully we will do it peacefully and will do so by tomorrow."

Earlier, his father Muammar Gadafy appeared in public in Tripoli, vowing to triumph over his enemies and urging his supporters to protect the country.

In an address in the capital’s Green Square, he told loyalist that they will "fight and win" against the anti-government protests sweeping the country.

Col Gadafy, wearing a fur cap and sunglasses, was speaking from the ramparts of the Red Castle, a historic fort, overlooking the square, where over 1,000 of his supporters were massed tonight, waving pictures of him and green flags. “Sing, dance and be prepared to defend Libya. Be prepared to defend the oil," he told them.

"We can crush any enemy. We can crush it with the people's will. The people are armed and when necessary, we will open arsenals to arm all the Libyan people and all Libyan tribes."

Earlier, militias loyal to Col Gadafy opened fire on protesters streaming out of mosques and marching across the Libyan capital.Witnesses reported at least four killed.

In rebellious cities in the east of the country, tens of thousands held rallies in support of the first Tripoli protests in days.

Most of the eastern half of Libya has already broken away, and diplomats, ministers and even a high-ranking cousin have abandoned Col Gadafy, who has ruled Libya for 41 years. He is still believed to be firmly in control only of the capital, some towns around it, the far desert south and parts of Libya’s sparsely populated centre.

In the capital’s Souq al-Jomaa district, protesters came under fire from gunmen on rooftops as they tried to march to Tripoli’s central Green Square. One witness reported seeing three protesters killed in Souq al-Jomaa, and another reported a fourth death in the district of Fashloum, where another rally was trying to march to the centre.

One witness said thousand of protesters heading toward the centre from the impoverished district of Tajoura were greeted with a hail of bullets. “We can’t see where it is coming from,” he said. “They don’t want to stop.” He said one man next to him was shot in the neck.

Others reported gunfire near Green Square itself where dozens of militiamen opened fire in the air to disperse protesters coming out of a nearby mosque. Other armed Gadafy supporters were speeding through streets in vehicles, said another witness.

The call for regime opponents to march from mosques after prayers was the first attempt to hold a major anti-Gadafy rally in the capital since early this week, when the regime launched a bloody crackdown on protesters that left dozens

dead.

Two Benghazi residents said that they had spoken to their friends in Tripoli by telephone after noon prayers. The friends had said people had staged demonstrations outside mosques throughout Tripoli.

Anti-government demonstrators made new gains yesterday and advanced closer to the embattled Libya leader's stronghold in Tripoli and pro-government forces attacked two nearby cities. At least 17 people were killed in yesterday's violence.

International momentum has been building for action to punish Col Gadafy’s regime for the bloodshed. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said today that it needs to consider sanctions such as travel restrictions and an asset freeze against Libya to achieve a halt to the violence there and move toward democracy.

Nato’s main decision-making body also planned to meet in emergency session today to consider the deteriorating situation, although Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said the alliance has no intention of intervening in the North African country.

The UN’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, meanwhile, said there are reports of mass killings of thousands in Libya that should spur the international community to “step in vigorously” to end the crackdown against anti-government protesters.

Rebels in eastern Libya said today they now controlled most of the oil fields east of the town of Ras Lanuf, and said they would honour oil deals as long as they were in the interest of the people. If oil contracts were unfair or based on corruption, however, the interim leadership of Libya's second city Benghazi said they reserved the right to renegotiate them.

The eastern Libyan town of Brega and its oil terminal are under rebel control, and soldiers who have defected are helping the rebels to secure the port.

In the eastern city of Adjabiya the army and police told al-Jazeera television today they had withdrawn from their barracks and joined the opposition trying to topple the regime. "We in the police force announce that we have joined the people completely in the peaceful 17 February revolution," Captain Hafiz Abdul-Rahim told al-Jazeera. "We announce that we will sacrifice our lives for this region and put all our capabilities in its service of a free Libya."

Army Colonel Shuaib Ibrahim al-Akouki said the army had also joined the opposition.

Serbia denied media reports today that its pilots or ground crews had been involved in Libyan air force bombing missions against protesters, and said it was suspending all its arms exports to the country. "No active or retired Serbian military personnel were involved in the events in Libya and we deny all such media reports," the Defence Ministry said in a statement. According to Arab and Maltese reports, Serb mercenary pilots took part in bombing runs against protesters in Tripoli and Benghazi.

The city of Benghazi has filled a political void with a coalition which is cleaning up, providing food, building defences, reassuring foreign oil firms and telling Tripoli it believes in one nation.

In what could become a model for other cities and towns in the country, professionals in Libya's ancient second city are trying to get residents' lives back to normal after forces loyal to Col Gadafy fled.

Weapons used in bloody clashes with pro-Gadafy forces were collected and African mercenaries the coalition says the Libyan leader used to fire on protesters were in jail awaiting trial. The city paid a high price for the revolt with up to 250 dead. The airport was closed because residents feared more mercenaries could be flown in and defences were being readied in case of some kind of counter-attack.

Coalition member Omar Mohammed said the army was behind the administration of Benghazi in restoring law and order. "I have friends in the army, senior officers, who know their job is to defend the people from Gadafy in all this part of Libya," he said. "They have been collecting a lot of weapons from the civilians because it is so dangerous. Some people think they need them to protect themselves. But this idea is not accepted. We are collecting the arms."

Agencies