Libya: Benghazi rebels reject African Union truce plan

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Benghazi: "A large crowd are protesting their dismay at this peace plan"

Libya's rebel leadership in Benghazi has rejected a proposal put forward by an African Union delegation to end the eight-week conflict.

The AU said Col Muammar Gaddafi had accepted the plan on Sunday. However, on Monday, his forces attacked the besieged western city of Misrata.

The rebels said they were rejecting the truce because it did not include plans for Col Gaddafi to step down.

The US, the UK and Italy have again said the Libyan leader must leave.

"The African Union initiative does not include the departure of Gaddafi and his sons from the Libyan political scene; therefore it is outdated," Mustafa Abdel Jalil from the rebels' Transitional National Council (TNC) told a news conference in Benghazi.

"The initiative speaks of reforms from within the Libyan system and that is rejected," he said.

Analysis

The African Union does not have a good reputation when it comes to solving crises. On Libya, it is sounding determined and maintains it is in the unique position of being able to speak to both Col Gaddafi and the forces in Benghazi.

But any intervention which does not involve the removal from power of Col Gaddafi will be seen by some as the AU saving the Libyan leader. It has often been accused of standing up for the incumbents and is criticised as being a club which serves the interests of the continent's presidents more than the people.

The situation is muddied by money. Col Gaddafi has bankrolled the AU for years and he has bought friends in Africa.

South Africa and Uganda are on the AU panel. Col Gaddafi has previously supported both South Africa's ruling party, the ANC, and Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni before they came to power.

Although neither country would admit this history influences their stance on Col Gaddafi, some may say it means they cannot be honest brokers in peace talks.

Having complained that the West was ignoring Africa's view on Libya and pushing for regime change, the AU has a chance to take the lead.

It already appears highly unlikely that the rebels will agree to any ceasefire or talks until Col Gaddafi is out of the picture.

The AU deal proposed:

  • An immediate ceasefire
  • The unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid
  • Protection of foreign nationals
  • A dialogue between the government and rebels on a political settlement
  • The suspension of Nato air strikes

The presidents of South Africa, Mauritania, Mali and Congo-Brazzaville made up the AU delegation, along with the Ugandan foreign minister.

They held talks with Col Gaddafi in Tripoli on Sunday. After the meeting, South African President Jacob Zuma said the Libyan leader had accepted the AU proposal.

They then flew on to Benghazi, where they met a rough reception, with demonstrators shouting "Gaddafi out" and mobbing their vehicles, reports the BBC's Jon Leyne in the city.

International reaction to the AU proposal was lukewarm. Nato - whose air strikes are targeting pro-Gaddafi forces - said any ceasefire must be credible and verifiable.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US wanted to see a transition which would include Col Gaddafi leaving Libya.

But Col Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam said again it was "ridiculous" to imagine his father leaving.

'Really hot'

A resident of Misrata who contacted the BBC said Col Gaddafi's forces had begun attacking at 0240 local time (0040 GMT), when they fired between 25 and 30 rockets.

"The situation is really hot," the resident, Abdel, said. "Gaddafi's forces are trying to enter from two sides from the east, and from inside the city centre from Tripoli Street - which is partially under control of Gaddafi's forces."

On Monday, the Libyan foreign ministry warned against any foreign intervention under cover of bringing aid to Misrata.

"Any attempt to approach Libyan territory under the cover of a humanitarian mission will be met with staunch armed resistance," the ministry said in a statement quoted by official Jana news agency.

Pro-Gaddafi forces have recently pushed back rebels - but Nato has thwarted their advance.

Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for "a complete end to violence and a complete end to all attacks against and abuses of civilians".

But he warned that military action alone would not solve the crisis in Libya, saying a solution must also offer political reforms.

The rebels have criticised Nato for not carrying out enough air strikes, as well as for a so-called "friendly fire" incident last week in which at least four people were killed.

President Zuma said Nato should end its air strikes, but the alliance said it would continue to fly sorties and would take action when it saw a threat to civilians.

air strikes map 11 april

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