Negotiations on the peaceful surrender of the Libyan town of Bani Walid, held by forces loyal to fugitve strongman Muammar Qaddafi, have ceased, a National Transitional Council military chief said yesterday.

The talks, which have been ongoing for nearly two weeks, "have stopped because there has been no result," Abdullah Abu Ussara said.

"We are now waiting for instructions on our next move," he added.

Meanwhile, Tunisia prevented a close aide to Qaddafi from leaving the country, an official in Tunis said Thursday.

General Khouildi Hamidi and his family attempted to fly out of Tunis international airport on Wednesday but were prevented by customs police, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Yesterday, Muammar Qaddafi resurfaced on the air waves to berate the rebels and to attempt to quash rumors he had fled the country for exhile in Burkina Faso saying he would fight on.

Qaddafi's defiant comments, sent to a Syrian TV station, came as the forces of Libya's new government tightened a siege on the tribal bastion of Bani Walid, where some suspect the strongman and two of his sons may be seeking shelter.

In exchanges of fire, Qaddafi loyalists in the town launched rockets.

Bani Walid, one of the few towns still in the hands of Qaddafi's followers, has refused to surrender despite a stand-off lasting nearly two weeks.

Rebel fighters are widely expected to stage an offensive in the coming days.

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