By Arab News
A key Libyan official involved in negotiations on the future of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime said Friday that Tripoli was attempting to hold talks with the US, Britain and France to find a mutual end to the crisis.
Abdul-Ati Al-Obeidi, a former Libyan prime minister, said Qaddafi’s government was reaching out to those leading the international military campaign in an attempt to halt airstrikes against regime targets, which began March 19. The claim follows confirmation that a Libyan government aide has held talks in Britain with UK officials in recent days.
The rebels meanwhile said they would agree to a cease-fire if Qaddafi pulls his military forces out of cities and allows peaceful protests against his regime.
Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the opposition’s interim governing council based in Benghazi, spoke during a joint press conference with UN envoy Abdelilah Al-Khatib. After meeting government officials on Thursday, Al-Khatib was visiting the rebels’ de facto stronghold of Benghazi in hopes of reaching a political solution to the crisis.
Abdul-Jalil said the rebels’ condition for a cease-fire is “that the Qaddafi forces withdraw from inside and outside Libyan cities to give freedom to the Libyan people to choose and the world will see that they will choose freedom.”
On the warfront, Qaddafi’s forces mounted an intense artillery bombardment of rebel-held Misrata on Friday and attacked shops and homes in the city center, residents said.
Misrata is the last big rebel stronghold in western Libya but after weeks of shelling and encirclement, government forces appear to be gradually loosening the rebels’ hold on the city.
One resident said an attempt by government forces to take control of the city center had been fought off by rebels but that afterward pro-Qaddafi forces started indiscriminate shelling of Misrata’s port and the city center. Al Jazeera television station quoted a rebel spokesman as saying five people had been killed.
On Friday, the opposition showed signs of gaining discipline on what has often been a disorganized battlefield. Fighters said fresh forces were coming in, mostly ex-military, but also volunteers with not quite a month of training. The rebels also appeared to have more communication equipment such as radios and satellite phones, and were working in more organized units, in which military defectors were each leading six or seven volunteers.