Gaddafi Offers To Negotiate; “Absolutely Not,” Rebels Say
An offer by Muammar Gaddafi to enter into talks with the rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC) to form a transitional government has been quickly rejected. The Guardian reports that, on Saturday night, Moussa Ibrahim, regime spokesman for Gaddafi, called the New York office of the Associated Press and said that Gaddafi wanted his son Saadi to lead negotiations with the NTC. Ibrahim was identified only by his voice and said he was still in Tripoli, and Gaddafi and his sons are still in Libya.
Ali Tarhouni, the rebel official in charge of oil and financial matters, answered with a definitive no:
“No negotiation is taking place with Gaddafi. If he wants to surrender, then we will negotiate and we will capture him.”
Guma el-Gamaty, the UK coordinator of the NTC, said the rebels are “absolutely 100% not” prepared to enter into talks with Gaddafi’s regime:
“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.”
British foreign secretary William Hague said that Gaddafi’s offer to negotiate was “delusional” and pointed out that a transition of power is already in place, with the NTC now locating itself in Tripoli under chairman Mustafa Abdel-Jalil.
Even as the hunt for Gaddafi continues, the NTC is under heavy pressure to restore essential services including running water and electricity to Tripoli, a city of some 2 million. The rebels report that there has been no damage to water or power lines and that service has yet to be restored due to “technical issues.” The New York Times explains how serious the lack of water is in Tripoli:
Libya is a desert country without a river, and Tripoli residents get their water from desert wells through a vast system of reservoirs and ducts known as the Great Man-Made River. Its operation requires electrical power, and the electrical power relies on fuel, so both problems may be related to the fuel shortages from the civil war and NATO blockade.
The NTC is also concerned about the fate of some 50,000 people arrested in recent months who remain unaccounted for, says the BBC. Many activists, and even those only suspected of supporting the uprising, were detained in “waves of security crackdowns” after protests began in February as Gaddafi sought to keep the uprising from moving to Tripoli. Says Rebel military spokesman Col Ahmed Omar Bani:
Rights groups have seen evidence that dozens of people have been massacred near prisons, but Col Bani did not accuse anyone of killing the prisoners.
“The number of people arrested over the past months is estimated at between 57,000 and 60,000,” he said in a news conference in Benghazi.
“Between 10,000 and 11,000 prisoners have been freed up until now… so where are the others?”
Rebel groups believed that prisoners may have been detained in underground bunkers, which have been abandoned. Human Rights Watch says it has evidence that Gaddafi forces killed at least 17 prisoners prior to the rebels’ taking Tripoli and that they also carried out “suspected arbitrary executions of dozens of civilians, including professionals.”
The Guardian says that NTC leaders know that they “will be judged by whether they can match the benchmark set by the ousted autocrat and are stressing that essential supplies, including drinking water and petrol, are on the way.” As the New York Times notes, the killings, dysfunction and general chaos “suggested how intensely Colonel Qaddafi’s chaotic and bloody legacy continues to challenge the fledgling transitional government even though he himself is out of sight and on the run.” Images of the grotesque luxury that he and his family lived in only hints at the misuse of resources under Gaddafi’s regime.
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Photo of Libyan rebels by sam_churchill