Muammar Gaddafi ‘appears willing’ to let son run country

MUAMMAR Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, has proposed taking over from his father and setting Libya on course to become a constitutional democracy.

The Libyan dictator’s British-educated son would take control of the country in an idea being discussed by “eminent people” in Tripoli, according to diplomatic sources. “This is the beginning position,” they said.

The New York Times, citing an unnamed diplomat and a Libyan official, reported that another Gaddafi son, Saadi, also backed the plan. It was not clear whether Gaddafi, 68, had endorsed the proposal, but one source close to the younger Gaddafis told the newspaper their father appeared willing to go along with it.

However, the Libyan rebels’ Transitional National Council yesterday rejected any transition. “Gaddafi and his sons have to leave before any diplomatic negotiations can take place,” its spokesman Shamseddin Abdulmelah said in Benghazi.

The two sons “want to move towards change for the country” without their father, the newspaper quoted one source 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 New York Times reported that the plan reflected the differences among Gaddafi’s various sons, with Saif and Saadi considered pro-Western and Khamis and Mutassim hardliners.

Gaddafi’s foreign affairs secretary, Abdelati Obeidi, was in Athens to meet Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday “at the request of the Libyan prime minister” Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmudi.

Britain, the US, Italy and Spain have all sent delegations to rebel-held Benghazi in efforts to get a better understanding of the opposition. The British visit comes nearly a month after an SAS team sent to contact the insurgency was captured, causing great embarrassment in London.

A spokeswoman for the rebels said they would be pressing “for more airstrikes, more pressure on Gaddafi for a ceasefire” and for eastern Libya to be exempt from sanctions.

British Defence Secretary William Hague was expected yesterday to mount a strong defence in parliament of the decision to give shelter to 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 he was right to be talking to him, repeating that Mr Koussa had received no amnesty.

The US yesterday agreed to a NATO request to extend airstrikes in Libya overnight as the rebels suffered an ambush by Gaddafi’s forces fighting for the oil town of Brega.

The US military had planned to begin withdrawing its combat jets and Tomahawk missiles from the air campaign against Libya’s regime this weekend.

Rebel volunteers near Brega acknowledged they lacked the training, discipline and knowledge of the terrain to mount a frontal assault on the town. They said they were dependent on the rebels’ few trained fighters, mostly defectors from the regular army.

“There is no commander. We are all together,” said Abdul Wahed Aguri, 28. “We are not army. We can’t move closer to Brega because we don’t know where the enemy is. We don’t know the area. We have to wait for the army (defectors).”

Meanwhile, a petition demanding the release of Libyan woman Iman al-Obeidi, who said government soldiers gang-raped her, reached its target of 500,000 signatures yesterday and is due to be delivered to the Turkish embassy in Benghazi. Ms Obeidi has not been seen since March 26, when she burst into a room full of media at Tripoli’s Rixos hotel and was dragged off by security guards.

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