Regime claims pact with Islamist

MUAMMAR Gaddafi’s son says his family has forged an alliance with Islamist rebels to drive out the secular opposition to the regime.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who along with his father had long branded the entire opposition as radical extremists, told The New York Times yesterday: “The liberals will escape or be killed . . . We will do it together.

“Libya will look like Saudi Arabia, like Iran. So what?”

Saif, who had long served as the face of the regime as he appeared in suits and ties and spoke fluent English, went to the interview at Tripoli hotel sporting a scraggly beard and traditional dress while fingering prayer beads.

He claimed to have negotiated the pact with Ali Sallabi, a leading Islamist in the rebel-held east. Sallabi acknowledged their conversations but denied the Islamists had switched sides.

The Gaddafi regime has long accused the revolt of being an al-Qa’ida plot and has sought to portray itself as a bulwark against an Islamist takeover of the oil-rich North African country. The rebels include some Islamists, but insist they are united in wanting to overthrow Gaddafi and establish a democratic government.

Gaddafi said the Islamists were “the real force on the ground” and that foreign powers would have to come to terms with them. “I know they are terrorists. They are bloody. They are not nice. But you have to accept them,” he said.

The interview could have been aimed at exploiting cracks in the rebels’ ranks after the killing of top military leader Abdel Fattah Younis last week in circumstances that remain opaque.

Meanwhile, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega announced after talks with a Libyan delegation that Muammar Gaddafi was ready to hold elections.

Mr Ortega, a friend of of the dictator, said the leftist Latin American bloc ALBA supported the move to allow Libyans to “exercise their right to vote . . . and create the conditions needed to end the war”. The Nicaraguan leader, who called for an end to the NATO bombing campaign, said the Libyan delegation had arrived in Managua on Tuesday bringing a letter from Gaddafi.

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