- Associated Press - Monday, April 11, 2011

BENGHAZI, Libya | Libyan rebels, backed forcefully by European leaders, rejected a cease-fire proposal by African mediators on Monday because it failed to insist that Col. Moammar Gadhafi relinquish power.

A day after an announcement that the Libyan leader had accepted the truce, a doctor in rebel-held Misurata said Col. Gadhafi’s forces battered that western city and its Mediterranean port with artillery fire that killed six people.

“He is the biggest lie in the history of Libya,” said Jilal Tajouri, 42, who joined more than 1,000 flag-waving protesters in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi as the delegation from the African Union (AU) arrived.

Col. Gadhafi and his sons must leave immediately if he wants to save himself. If not, the people are coming for him,” said Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, a former justice minister who split with Col. Gadhafi and heads the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council.

Mr. Abdul-Jalil said the AU proposal “did not respond to the aspirations of the Libyan people” and involved only political reforms.

“The initiative that was presented today, its time has passed,” he said. “We will not negotiate on the blood of our martyrs. We will die with them or be victorious.”

The protesters in Benghazi said they had little faith in the visiting African mediators, most of them allies of Col. Gadhafi.

South African President Jacob Zuma led the group, whose other key participants were the leaders of Mali, Mauritania, Republic of Congo and Uganda.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini strongly backed the rebel demand for Col. Gadhafi’s immediate departure and said he doubted that the Libyan leader would have abided by the cease-fire after breaking more than one previous pledge to halt violence.

Col. Gadhafi’s forces, meanwhile, shelled Misurata despite the AU delegation’s assurance that the Libyan dictator had accepted their cease-fire plan at a meeting late Sunday in Tripoli. A doctor who lives in the city said the shelling began overnight and continued intermittently throughout the day Monday.

He said six people, one of them a 3-year-old girl, were killed by missiles that slammed into residential areas. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation if he was discovered by Col. Gadhafi’s forces.

Weeks of fierce government bombardment of Misurata, the only major city in the western half of Libya that remains under partial rebel control, have terrorized its residents. Dozens have been killed, and food and medical supplies are scarce, according to residents, doctors and rights groups.

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