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      Rebels: Qaddafi 'Out By August'

      As Libya's rebels advance on Tripoli their political leadership says 42-year strongman Muammar Qaddafi will be out by August.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 8/17/2011, 7:59 PM

      Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chair of Libya's National Transitional Council, said Wednesday he expected eccentric strongman Muammar Qaddafi's 42-year reign to end by August.

      Sketching out the country's path to democracy, Jalil sought to draw a line under questions about the intent and the legitimacy of his un-elected council, which has become the de-facto government in the rebel-held east of Libya.

      "This (transition) period is needed to establish stability... it will not exceed eight months, maybe it will be much less. After which Libyans will be called upon to elect a national congress," Jalil told reporters.

      With pressure from the council's international backers anxious to set out a clear path toward democracy and to avoid the country descending into chaos, Jalil committed to a referendum on a new constitution within 20 months.

      The August benchmark is in line with previously stated rebel hopes of a Ramadan victory over Qaddafi echoing Muhammad's legendary victory at the Battle of Badr in 624.

      In recent days rebels have seized parts of the strategic town of Zawiya, taken the key junction of Gharyan, and advanced past long-besieged Misrata thereby encircling Qaddafi's stronghold of Tripoli.

      Qaddafi regime officials were reportedly holding talks with a special UN envoy on Tuesday night as rebels claimed they would take Tripoli by the end of the month and the US said the dictator’s “days are numbered."

      The talks come as reports circle that Qaddafi may be seriously ill, though some commentators question whether or not it is a ruse by the eccentric strongman to leave Libya with a remnant of dignity.

      Abdel-Elah al-Khatib, the former Jordanian foreign minister appointed by the United Nations to try to negotiate an end to the conflict, said he was meeting representatives of both sides of the Libyan conflict in Tunisia.