By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — A delegation of heads of state from African Union countries has met with Libya’s opposition leaders in Benghazi to discuss a proposed “road map” for ending eight weeks of civil conflict in the country.
But Libya’s opposition has reportedly rejected the scheme.
Speaking at a news conference in the western Libyan city after the gathering, rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil said the opposition would reject any mediation that does not include longtime Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster.
The plan was said to have been agreed to by Qaddafi on April 10.
Qaddafi says he will not accept rebel demands that he step down from power.
The rebels also say any cease-fire should require government troops to withdraw from the streets and return to their barracks. The opposition also is demanding that Qaddafi’s regime allow freedom of expression so that the Libyan people can safely go into the streets and peacefully express their desire for Qaddafi to resign.
Opposition leaders say that if the Libyan people had any free choice, Qaddafi would be ousted quickly.
As the AU delegates arrived in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi for the April 11 talks, they were met by demonstrators who insisted that Qaddafi must resign from power and that his sons also should have no role in running the country. The large crowd continued to chant their demands as the talks continued behind closed doors.
In fact, the road map agreed by Qaddafi calls for a transitional period in which some authorities from the regime in Tripoli would work with the opposition on reforms.
In interviews with foreign correspondents, many opposition fighters in Benghazi expressed suspicions about the motivation of the African Union delegation’s visit.
They are questioning whether the AU leaders involved are trying to make a genuine attempt at conflict resolution or if the road map is merely an attempt by African governments with close ties to Qaddafi to shore up his regime.
They say they would accept the cease-fire deal on condition that government troops lift their sieges of opposition-held towns and return to their barracks. They also want political prisoners held by Qaddafi’s regime to be freed.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on April 11 that NATO appreciated all efforts to find a political solution to the problems in Libya, including the African Union initiative. But Rasmussen also warned that a cease-fire must be “credible and verifiable.”
“As the United Nations Security Council has made clear, there must be a complete end to violence and a complete end to all attacks against and abuses of civilians,” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen said air strikes would continue, if needed, in order to protect civilians.
Opposition leaders have expressed doubts about the implementation of a cease-fire by Qaddafi’s troops. Two earlier cease-fires declared by Qaddafi’s regime were not respected by government forces, which continued to besiege and bombard rebel-held towns along Libya’s Mediterranean coast despite Tripoli’s proclamations.