Gaddafi ready for ceasefire

Editorial, Normal

The National , Wednesday, June 1, 2011

FRESH explosions rang out early yesterday near Tripoli, hours after South African president Jacob Zuma held talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and signalled he was ready to accept an African Union plan for a cease-fire.
Around 12.45am on Tuesday, a pair of large blasts were heard about five minutes apart, as jets flew over the capital of Tripoli.
A Libyan government official said the first strike hit Abu Sita, a former military turned construction site about 10km from the city centre.
There was no immediate indication of where the second explosion occurred. Nor was there an immediate response from Nato, which has conducted regular strikes as part of its stated mission to halt Gaddafi’s forces from killing innocent civilians.
Hours before the blasts, Zuma emerged from a meeting with the longtime Libyan strongman convinced that Gaddafi was ready for an end to hostilities, including such airstrikes and the ongoing fight with the Benghazi-based opposition movement.
But, he gave no indication that Gaddafi was prepared to step aside, as rebel leaders had insisted was their primary demand.
“Brother leader took the position today that he is ready to implement the decision of the AU (that) there must be a cease-fire,” Zuma told reporters on the tarmac at Tripoli’s Mitiga international airport before boarding a jet.
“The view is that that must include – bombing by Nato must also come to an end,” he said in the news conference.
Zuma added that Gaddafi said any cease-fire must apply to all parties, “but also, he makes the point that: Let the Libyan people be given a chance to talk among themselves. And, therefore, he is ready to implement the road map of the AU”.
Unlike some other world leaders, Zuma had not called for the longtime Libyan leader to step down. Neither had Zuma’s African National Congress party nor the African Union, which he was representing and which Gaddafi once led.
In fact, the AU had criticised the Nato airstrikes.
In April, Zuma led an AU delegation to Tripoli, where hopes were raised briefly when it was announced that Gaddafi had agreed, in principle, to the African Union’s “road map” proposal for peace.
But, Gaddafi continued his attacks and the Libyan opposition rejected the proposal because it did not meet its demand that he give up the power he had held for 42 years.
A government official said Libyan prime minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmudi also attended Monday’s meeting.
Baghdadi greeted Zuma upon arrival at the airport, where dozens of Gaddafi supporters carried posters, some of which said: “May the leader be victorious” and “thanks for great Africa”.
The African Union had helped mediate peace talks before, including ones in Kenya and Zimbabwe that left the ruling powers in control.
It was not clear whether Zuma used the opportunity to press Gaddafi for information on the whereabouts of South African freelance photographer Anton Hammerl.
Hammerl had been missing in Libya since April and was believed dead.
South Africa had said it got assurances from Libya that the journalist was alive. But, a Libyan government spokesman said his whereabouts were unknown.
“We never had him with us at any stage,” spokesman Musa Ibrahim had said.
The meeting came as Gad-dafi’s grip on power appeared to continue to loosen. – CNN