Muammar Gaddafi is considering leaving the Capital Tripoli following blistering NATO air raids, a report said, as Libya’s rebels hinted they may allow him to remain in the country if he stands down.
The Wall Street Journal on Friday quoted a senior US national security official as saying American intelligence shows Gaddafi “doesn’t feel safe anymore” in the Capital where he has ruled for more than four decades. However, officials told the paper they did not see the move as imminent and did not believe Gaddafi would leave Libya, a key demand of rebels who have been battling his forces.
Gaddafi is believed to have numerous safe houses and other facilities both within and outside Tripoli to which he might relocate. Rebel spokesman Mahmud Shamam told French daily Le Figaro the insurgents were in indirect contact with the regime and may be prepared to allow Gaddafi to stay in Libya, but that he and his family must agree to leave power.
“Our conditions remain the same. It is totally excluded that Gaddafi or members of his family take part in a future government. We are discussing with them the mechanism for Gaddafi’s departure,” he said.
In the rebels’ capital Benghazi, however, the National Transitional Council deputy chairman Abdel Ghoga told AFP: “There is no contact, direct or indirect, with the Gaddafi regime.”
Another rebel leader, Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani, made a plea on Thursday for foreign allies to provide the arms, training and communications systems needed to defeat Gaddafi. “It is so urgent,” he said, “we will fight, just support us, just give us the equipment.”
Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday shrugged off criticism of the NATO-led campaign in Libya, saying the Western alliance should stay put until Muammar Gaddafi departs.
As some alliance members pull out due to lack of assets, and NATO faces flak over the first civilian casualties in its three-month campaign, Sarkozy instead said at the close of a European Union summit in in Brussels that the campaign was making steady progress.
While sceptics had feared the campaign would get bogged down in the face of a counter-offensive by Gaddafi loyalists, “everyone can see Gaddafi’s forces are retreating everywhere,” he told a news conference. “There is a general uprising of the population,” he added. “There is progress.” “We will continue until Gaddafi’s departure.” Economic Times