Libya's rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) denied Tuesday it is holding backchannel talks with with Muammar Qaddafi's government, or with the U.N. special envoy for Libya to resolve the country's civil war.
"The NTC would like to assure that there are no negotiations either direct or indirect with the Gaddafi regime or with the special envoy of the United Nations," NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil told reporters through an interpreter.
Asked about reports of secret negotiations on the Tunisian island of Djerba, Jalil denied any back-channel communications with Qaddafi had taken place.
"I would like to affirm that the NTC has no knowledge and no backing of these talks ... Any political consultations or contacts should be done through or with the council," Jalil said.
The NTC has consistently denied any bid to broker a compromise deal with the Libyan leader, insisting that after 41 years in power he must simply quit and leave or be ousted by force.
A Qaddafi government spokesman also denied negotiating with the rebel leadership.
The UN special envoy trying to find a way to end the conflict in Libya, Abdel Elah al-Khatib, was scheduled to meet senior Tunisian representatives on Monday.
A foreign ministry spokesman in Tunis on Sunday said he would also "certainly ... meet the Libyan parties".
Khatib has met on several occasions with representatives of Qaddafi and the rebels. His visit to the region was his first since rebel advances cut Tripoli off from its supply route to Tunisia, shifting momentum in the rebels' favour.
Reports of secret talks in Djerba coincided with the apparent defection of a senior figure in Gaddafi's security apparatus, who flew from Djerba to Cairo with his family on Monday.
The denials come as rebels make major gains in the six-month old civil war, taking the strategic city of Zawiyah on the coast and securing the key crossroads town of Garyan in the desert south of Tripoli.
The advances buoyed the rebel movement prompting analysts to speculate that the noose is tightening around Qaddafi's stronghold in the Libyan capital.