Gaddafi sons plan Libya handover: reports

AT least two sons of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are proposing a transition to a constitutional democracy that would include their father’s removal from power, New York Times is reporting.

Citing an unnamed diplomat and a Libyan official briefed on the plan, the newspaper said the transition would be spearheaded by one of Gaddafi’s sons, Seif al-Islam el-Gaddafi.

However, the Libyan rebels’ Transitional National Council today rejected any transition under Gaddafi’s sons. “This is completely rejected by the council,” its spokesman Shamseddin Abdulmelah said in the rebels’ stronghold in the eastern city of Benghazi.

“Gaddafi and his sons have to leave before any diplomatic negotiations can take place.”  It is not clear whether Colonel Gaddafi, 68, has signed on to the reported proposal backed by his sons, Seif and Saadi el-Gaddafi, the report said.  But one person close to these sons said the father appeared willing to go along, the paper noted.

The two sons “want to move toward change for the country” without their father, the New York Times quoted one person close to the Seif and Saadi camp as saying.  They have hit so many brick walls with the old guard, and if they have the go-ahead, they will bring the country up quickly.”  The newspaper said the idea may reflect longstanding differences among Gaddafi’s sons.

While Seif and Saadi have leaned toward Western-style economic and political openings, Colonel Gaddafi’s sons Khamis and Mutuassim are considered hard-liners, the paper said.  Khamis leads a pro-government militia, the report noted. And Mutuassim, a national security adviser, has been considered a rival to Seif in the competition to succeed their father.

Saif, the Colonel’s British-educated son, would take control of the country in the interim under plans that he has proposed himself, a report in London’s Times said.  The Times sources said that the idea was being discussed by “eminent people” in Tripoli, although they cautioned that neither Colonel Gaddafi nor the rebel council in Benghazi appeared ready to accept such a move.

“This is the beginning position,” they said, but added that there were currently no talks.  The plan, which follows a visit to London last week by Mohammed Ismail, one of Saif Gaddafi’s aides, indicates that members of the dictator’s inner circle are considering their options.  The revelations came as diplomatic efforts to find a way out of the seven-week conflict escalated.

Abdelati Obeidi, the Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister, arrived in Athens with a message from Colonel Gaddafi.  He was to meet George Papandreou, the Greek Prime Minister, last night.  Britain has sent a diplomatic team to the rebel-held Benghazi as the Government tries to get a better understanding of the opposition.

Italy and Spain have also sent envoys, as has the US.  A spokeswoman for the rebels said that they would be pressing “for more air strikes, more pressure on Gaddafi for a ceasefire” and for eastern Libya to be exempt from sanctions.  William Hague will today give a statement to parliament, in which he is expected to mount a strong defence of the decision to give shelter to Colonel Gaddafi’s former spy chief.

Despite claims that Moussa Koussa organised shipments of Semtex to the IRA in the 1980s and 1990s, Mr Hague said yesterday that he was right to be talking to him, repeating that Mr Koussa had received no amnesty.  The Foreign Secretary said he detected that his counterpart had become “very distressed” about what was happening. ”

And when somebody like that says they want to get out then it would be quite wrong to say no,” he told BBC One.  London and Washington were at odds over the possible influence of al-Qa’ida in rebel ranks.  Mr Hague said there was no substantial evidence that that was the case.

He said he believed that the rebel council was “sincere” in its wishes for a democratic Libya and urged others to “take them at face value”.  However, Congressman Mike Rogers, chairman of the House intelligence committee, echoed warnings that there may be strains of al-Qa’ida among the rebels.

An al-Qa’ida-linked website claimed that Islamic militants formed a significant part of the anti-Gaddafi fighting forces. Pakistani intelligence sources said that al-Qa’ida retained close links with militants in Libya and other North African countries. Many Libyan militants moved to Afghanistan after a failed attempt to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi in 1996.

In the skies above Libya, the US extended by a day its role flying strike missions for the coalition patrolling the no-fly zone.  It will hand over to other coalition aircraft today.  The decision to remove US jets has angered some politicians. Lindsey Graham, the Republican Senator, said: “When we called for a no-fly zone, we didn’t mean our planes.”

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