- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 3, 2011

Col. Moammar Gadhafi appeared to be scrambling for a political solution to the civil war in Libya, as his favorite son proposed a peace plan and a key envoy headed to Greece on Sunday with a message to the prime minister from the Libyan dictator.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, widely seen as his father’s heir apparent before hostilities erupted, offered his plan to British officials late last week through an envoy in London, several sources told The Washington Times on Sunday.

Under the proposal, Col. Gadhafi would step down from his 42-year reign and his son would lead a transitional government to form a democracy, the sources said.

However, the Libyan resistance immediately rejected the plan and repeated its demand that the entire Gadhafi clan and his inner circle must have no part in a postwar Libya, said a former Libyan diplomat and sources close to the provisional government in the rebel stronghold in the eastern city of Benghazi.

“I don’t think there is anyone in Libya who will accept Seif in any position in the future of Libya,” said Ali S. Aujali, who quit as Libya’s ambassador in Washington after the start of the uprising in February.

In another development, Abdelati Obeidi, a former Libyan prime minister, traveled to Greece on Sunday with a message from Col. Gadhafi for Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, two rebel officials told The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity.

Following the meeting in Athens, Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said “it appears that the regime is seeking a solution.”

Mr. Droutsas said the message from the Greek side was: “Full respect and implementation of the United Nations decisions, an immediate cease-fire, an end to violence and hostilities, particularly against the civilian population of Libya.”

Mr. Papandreou has been talking by phone with the leaders of Qatar, Turkey and Britain over the past two days trying to find a diplomatic solution to the war.

Earlier on Friday, sources reported an intense firefight inside Bab al-Aziziya, Col. Gadhafi’s military compound in Tripoli.

The Libyan capital has been rife with speculation about the cause of the shooting. Residents cited two top rumors to The Times: a coup attempt by a top general or a desperate bid by the regime to prevent more of its members from defecting.

Col. Gadhafi’s forces and the rebels have fought to a stalemate in the pingpong civil war along the North African coast. Rebels advanced under air cover from a U.S.-led coalition, then retreated from a Libyan army counterattack. Both sides are bogged down in fighting over the eastern oil town of Brega, a sparsely populated settlement spread over more than 15 miles.

On Friday, Mr. Obeidi told Britain’s Channel 4 News that Col. Gadhafi is trying to hold talks with the United States, Britain and France to find a diplomatic end to the war.

“We are trying to find a mutual solution,” he said.

A Libyan government spokesman last week dismissed a cease-fire offer from the resistance because of a pre-condition that Col. Gadhafi withdraw his troops from all cities and allow peaceful protests against his regime.

“You are not making peace if you are making impossible demands,” spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said.

“It’s a trick, it’s a trick. I could say to the rebels, ‘I offer you peace — get out of Benghazi on a ship. This is my condition.’ You can’t do that.”

Opposition sources said Seif Gadhafi destroyed any legitimacy he might have had when he delivered a speech in February denouncing the uprising against his father. He declared that the rebels will die in “rivers of blood.”

“Seif has already shown his real face when he delivered his speech telling Libyans either we rule you or we kill you,” said Mr. Aujali, who had long served as a top diplomat to Col. Gadhafi.

Rashid Bseikri, a U.S.-based member of the Libyan opposition who is close to members of the provisional government in Benghazi, said the council had “turned down the plan on the basis that neither Gadhafi nor his immediate circle is acceptable to them.”

“The decision of the council is firm. This cannot even be the starting point for a negotiation,” he added.

Meanwhile, Britain said on Sunday that it has sent a team of diplomats to Libya to meet with rebel leaders in Benghazi.

The delegation, which arrived in Libya on Saturday, is headed by Christopher Prentice, Britain’s ambassador to Italy.

“It will build on the work of the previous team and seek to establish further information about the Interim National Council, its aims and more broadly what is happening in Libya,” the foreign office said in London.

In Libya Sunday, Col. Gadhafi’s forces continued pounding Misurata, the only rebel-held city in the western part of the nation. The city has been under siege for more than 40 days.

In Misurata, pro-Gadhafi forces were entrenched deep inside the city, but rebels claimed they were still in control.

The rebels have identified as many as 10 targets for international airstrikes inside Misurata where they say pro-Gadhafi forces are based. These include a large marketplace outside the city, a youth hostel, a sports facility, a central hospital that is under renovation and a fruit-and-vegetable market inside the city.

They said civilians have abandoned these sites.

“We are sure that it is almost 100 percent safe to hit those targets that we have identified,” Mohamed, a rebel spokesman in Misurata whose full name has been withheld out of concern for his safety, told The Times.

Snipers loyal to the regime continued to pick off targets from their vantage points atop buildings.

Pro-Gadhafi forces are also going from door to door evicting families at gunpoint. More than 10,000 families have been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis in Misurata.

The pressure on hospitals was alleviated slightly over the weekend when two ships, one from Turkey and the other from Malta, evacuated more than 250 people wounded in the fighting. A Qatari ship also brought food to the city on Saturday.

“We are in control of much of Misurata, but I wonder how long that will last,” said Mohamed.

“The killing, suffering and destruction just goes on. It really is a wonder that Misurata is still holding up,” he added.

Rebels complain that the international forces are unwilling to hit Col. Gadhafi’s forces inside city limits for fear of collateral damage. As a consequence, they say, the regime’s tanks continue to attack civilians and rebels with impunity while international aircraft circle overhead.

Mohamed said Canadian jets patrolling the skies over Misurata are too cautious.

“We have asked them to take the risk or somebody else should be allocated the area of Misurata, like the British or the French or the Americans,” he said.

The United States said it stopped flying strike missions in Libya as of Sunday. NATO took over command of all operations in the country last week.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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