Monday, 11 April 2011

Libyan rebels unconvinced by AU's ceasefire proposal

The African Union (AU) has offered Libyan rebels a peace treaty, which Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi has reportedly already accepted. The AU delegation met with rebel leaders in Benghazi, who promised to study the proposal but noted that a ceasefire will not be possible unless Qadhafi steps-down.

The delegation was greeted in the de facto capital of the Libyan opposition by more than a 1000 demonstrators chanting anti-regime slogans. The general consensus on the street seems to be somewhat pessimistic, with the rebels placing little faith in the visiting mediators.

Led by South Africa's President Jacob Zuma the delegation met with Qadhafi on Sunday 10th April in Tripoli. Speaking about the prospect of a peace treaty a member of the opposition's transitional ruling council said, "The sons and the family of Qadhafi cannot participate in the political future of Libya…there is no negotiation."

The meeting was held shortly after Nato air strikes hit Qadhafi's tanks, helping the rebels push back the troops who had been advancing toward Benghazi. The AU's peace draft stipulated an immediate ceasefire and the start of a dialogue between the two sides. AU officials, however, made no mention of Qadhafi's removal as the rebels have demanded.

Zuma, however, urged Nato to "give the ceasefire a chance" but it is highly unlikely that the rebels will come to a deal with the AU if Qadhafi remains in place. Speaking to Arab television, a Libyan government spokesman, Abdel Monem Al-Lamoushi, said: "The issue of Qadhafi stepping down from any political position is a closed issue ... Qadhafi does not hold a position of power…No one has the right to send Qadhafi into exile out of the land of his forefathers. This man will not leave Libya."

The AU delegation, consisting of the presidents of South Africa, Congo-Brazzaville, Mali and Mauritania, as well as Uganda's Foreign Minister, landed in Tripoli's Mitiga airport after Nato gave permission for their aircraft to enter. The planes were the first to land on Libyan soil since the international coalition imposed a no-fly zone over the country more than two weeks ago.

Sources: BBC News, Bloomberg, Reuters, The Guardian

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

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