Libyan rebels refuse AU-brokered ceasefire plan

Libyan rebels on Monday rejected a road map initiated by the African Union (AU) calling for ceasefire between the rebels and forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, because it did not include the ouster of the ruling family.

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, chairman of the rebels' Transitional National Council (TNC) and the country's former justice minister, said the initiative "did not respond to the aspirations of the Libyan people."

The AU proposal did not discuss Gaddafi's removal and instead only involved political reforms, he added. He also strongly rejected any mediation initiative that could pave the way for Gaddafi's stay in power.

Gaddafi and his family must leave Libya, Abdul-Jalil told a press conference in the opposition's stronghold of Benghazi. "It ( the African Union's road map initiative) has already surpassed the time. We know the departure of Gaddafi and his sons is the people' s demand," he added.

The African Union's road map called for an immediate ceasefire, cooperation in opening channels for humanitarian aid and starting a dialogue between the rebels and the government, without mentioning any requirement for troops loyal to Gaddafi to pull back from Brega, Ras Ranuf, and Misrata.

A delegation comprised by leaders from South Africa, Mali and Mauritania arrived in Benghazi Monday to meet with Libyan rebels, trying to broker a ceasefire between the government forces and the militants in Benghazi.

The delegation tried to convince people in Tripoli and Benghazi to stop the war but after four hours of talks, the rebels rejected the terms of the ceasefire deal.

The AU mediators held talks with Gaddafi in Tripoli on Sunday. After the meeting, South African President Jacob Zuma said the Libyan leader had accepted the AU proposal.

Then they flew on to Benghazi, where demonstrators shouted " Gaddafi out" and tried to stop their vehicles when they were entering the hotel that held the meeting.

Since Monday morning, hundreds of residents in Benghazi have gathered in front of the hotel, rejecting any negotiation that allows Gaddafi and his family to stay in Libya.

Mull Sebujja Katende, Uganda's ambassador to Ethiopia and Djibouti, said ahead of the meeting that what Libya needs now is a ceasefire of all involved parties and access for humanitarian assistance, and the negotiation should lead to transitional arrangements for political reforms.

"Gaddafi declared the ceasefire last month, but that is not reached through negotiation, it is a unilateral declaration," Sebujja said.

"The declaration should involve both parties and a credible mechanism must be put on the ground to observe it, and that is why we come here," he added.

The delegation has completed its mission with the Libyan government which has accepted the road map, Zuma said Sunday. He went to Tripoli with the heads of Mali and Mauritania to meet with Gaddafi, whose 42-year rule has been rocked by the conflicts that broke out nearly two months ago.

The NATO launched airstrikes Sunday against Gaddafi's troops in Brega, which stopped heavy shelling by government forces of the eastern city of Ajdabiya, a gateway to the opposition's base of Benghazi.

NATO said the airstrikes destroyed 11 tanks near Ajdabiya and another 14 near Misrata, the only city rebels still hold in the western half of Libya.

The AU also outlined an agreement for the "deployment of an effective monitoring mechanism for ceasefire," but it was not clear whether this would involve the African Union troops.

After almost two months of fighting, troops loyal to Gaddafi and rebels in the North African country, Africa's largest oil producers, have fought to a stalemate, with battles moving back and forth in a small area along the coast, and neither side is able to take or hold position for long.

"We have heard quite a number of announced ceasefires and they have not been implemented, and we have fed up with that," a demonstrator outside the conference room said.

[Source: Xinhua, Libya, 11Apr11]

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