Daily Israel Report

Rebels Decline Qaddafi Talks

Libya's rebels reportedly declined an offer by fugitive strongman Muamar Qaddafi to negotiate a 'transition of power.'
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 8/31/2011, 10:01 PM

Fugitive strongman Muamar Qaddafi has reportedly offered to enter talks with Libya's rebels over the formation of a transitional government as rebel forces prepare for an assault on the ousted dictator's hometown of Sirte.

The offer of negotiations - put forward by a Qaddafi minister via the Associated Press - was slapped down quickly by a senior NTC official, who said the rebels would not talk to Qaddafi unless he surrendered.

"No negotiation is taking place with Qaddafi," said Ali Tarhouni, the rebel official in charge of oil and financial matters. He told Reuters: "If he wants to surrender, then we will negotiate and we will capture him."

Guma el-Gamaty, the UK co-coordinator of the NTC, said the rebels were "absolutely 100% not" prepared to enter into negotiations with Gaddafi about a transitional government.

He said: "The only negotiation is how to apprehend him, [for him] to tell us where he is and what conditions he wants for his apprehension: whether he wants to be kept in a single cell or shared cell or whether he wants to have his own shower or not, you know. These are the kind of negotiations we are willing to talk about."

The British foreign secretary, William Hague, said on Sunday there had never been any possibility of the Libyan dictator being part of a transition. He described Qaddafi's apparent offer of talks as "delusional".

"I referred a few days ago to Colonel Qaddafi making delusional statements and this is another one of them," he told the BBC.

"A transition of power is already taking place. The NTC ministers are in Tripoli and in increasing control of the situation. What is needed from the remnants of the Qaddafi regime is for the fighting to stop."

Speculation over the political future of Libya came as the search for Qaddafi and his sons continued, with the rebels fighting for control of a major supply road to the capital on Saturday after seizing a border crossing with Tunisia.

Nor is it clear the NTC - which has rejected the presence of international peacekeepers or foreign observers during the transition to a new government - is a truly representative body that will allow dissenting voices on government formation to be heard.

Libya's polity is highly diverse and has large number of regional and tribal divisions long held together by Qaddafi's cult of personality. Whether the NTC can weld these disparate groups together in the vacuum Qaddafi leaves in his wake remains to be seen.