Zuma says Gadhafi refuses to leave Libya

Updated: 2011-06-01 08:17

(China Daily)

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TRIPOLI, Libya - Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi is not prepared to leave Libya and is prepared to seek a political solution to the conflict in the country, South African President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.

Zuma said in a statement issued after meeting Gadhafi in Tripoli on Monday that the Libyan leader had called for an end to NATO bombings.

"He emphasized that he was not prepared to leave his country, despite the difficulties," according to the statement. "The personal safety of Colonel Gadhafi is of concern."

Gadhafi is ready for a truce to stop the fighting in his country, Zuma said, but he listed familiar Gadhafi conditions that have scuttled previous cease-fire efforts. Rebels quickly rejected the offer.

Zuma said on Monday that Gadhafi is ready to accept an African Union (AU) initiative for a cease-fire that would stop all hostilities, including NATO airstrikes in support of rebel forces. "He is ready to implement the roadmap," Zuma said.

Zuma said Gadhafi insists that "all Libyans be given a chance to talk among themselves" to determine the country's future. He did not say Gadhafi is ready to step down, which is the central demand of the rebels. He was speaking to reporters from South African and Libyan TV, which broadcast his remarks late on Monday.

China on Tuesday urged all parties to reach a cease-fire in Libya and resolve the crisis through political means.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said: "We expect the parties in Libya to give priority to the interests of the country and people, take into full account the mediation proposals by the international community and ease tensions at an early time."

She stressed that China respects the Libyan people's choice and supports all efforts to help tackle the crisis in a political way.

"China would like to stay in touch with all parties and play its own role in seeking political solutions to the crisis," Jiang said.

In April, Zuma led a delegation of the AU to Tripoli with an AU proposal for a truce. Gadhafi said he would accept the truce but quickly ignored it and resumed his attacks, while the rebels rejected the cease-fire out of hand because it did not include Gadhafi's exit from power. Since then many cease-fire efforts have failed for similar reasons.

In Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital, rebel foreign policy chief Fathi Baja rejected the AU plan. "We refuse completely, we don't consider it a political initiative, it is only some stuff that Gadhafi wants to announce to stay in power," he said.

He said he believes Zuma is in Tripoli to negotiate an exit strategy for Gadhafi, though Zuma's office denies that. Baja also said the rebels would launch an offensive against Gadhafi soon.

Zuma was greeted with all the requisite fanfare by the Libyan government. Dozens of Gadhafi supporters, bused in for the welcoming, waved Libyan flags and chanted slogans denouncing the NATO bombing campaign against Libyan government.

NATO temporarily lifted its no-fly zone over Libya to allow Zuma's South African air force plane to land at the main military air base next to Tripoli.

In Rome on Monday, an indication that Gadhafi is losing support came from eight top Libyan army officers, including five generals, who defected from Gadhafi's military. They appealed to their fellow officers to join the revolt.

Several senior officials, including at least three Cabinet ministers, have abandoned Gadhafi during the uprising that began in February. Even so, he clings tenaciously to power, and the military units still loyal to him are far superior to the forces available to the rebels.

One of the officers, General Melud Massoud Halasa, estimated that Gadhafi's military forces are now "only 20 percent as effective" as what they were before the revolt broke out in mid-February, and that "not more than 10" generals remain loyal to Gadhafi.

General On Ali On read an appeal to fellow army officers and top police and security officials "in the name of the martyrs who have fallen in the defense of freedom to have the courage" to abandon the government.

The general, wearing street clothes like his fellow defectors, denounced both "genocide" and "violence against women in various Libyan cities".

China Daily-Reuters-AP


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