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Rebels vow to mark end of Ramadan without Gaddafi

Text by Sarah LEDUC

Latest update : 2011-08-17

According to the Libyan National Transition Council’s ambassador in France, the rebels’ victory against pro-Gaddafi forces is imminent; are the days of the country’s longtime ruler numbered?

"The Libya of tomorrow” seems to be Mansour Seif al-Nasr’s motto these days. According to the Libyan National Transition Council’s ambassador to France, the defeat of Libya’s longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi by rebel forces may just be days away.

“Victory is close,” al-Nasr told FRANCE 24. “Our fighters, who are still oppressed by Gaddafi’s dictatorship in Tripoli, have decided that the end of Ramadan will be celebrated at the same time as our victory,” he said in a televised interview on Wednesday. The holy month of Ramadan will end later this month.

Al-Nasr was already optimistic during an earlier interview with FRANCE 24 on August 10: “We’re gaining ground each day, even though the enemy respects no rules and is planting its tanks and heavy artillery in schools, hospitals, gardens, and even private homes.”

Libyan rebels say that after a series of military victories against Gaddafi’s troops, they are now in the final phase of their operations. According to French news agency AFP, the insurgents announced last Monday that they controlled the “major part” of Zawiyah, 40 kilometres to the west of Tripoli, as well as Gharyan (50 kilometres south of the capital) and Sorman (60 kilometres west of Tripoli). The battles resulted in 23 deaths in Zawiyah and 15 others in the eastern city of Brega.

Next stop: Tripoli

The military successes have moved the rebels closer to Tripoli. Al-Nasr says that there are fighters in the capital waiting to join the rebels in due course.

“The capital, which rebelled at the beginning [of the revolution, last February], was brought back under Gaddafi’s control by his planes and tanks,” al-Nasr explained. “But now things have changed. We’re in contact with our compatriots in Tripoli who have been expressing their support.”

That assessment is shared by Washington. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently noted that “it is becoming increasingly clear that Muammar Gaddafi’s days are numbered”. Meanwhile, NATO condemned in a statement last Sunday’s launch of a Scud missile against rebels as “irresponsible and desperate”.

Secret negotiations between regime and rebels?

The conflict is also said to have entered a decisive phase in Djerba, where discreet negotiations have been held since Sunday. The UN special envoy to Libya, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, left Tunisia on Tuesday after a 24-hour visit during which he allegedly met Libyan representatives, as rumours circulated that negotiations between rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces had begun.

Several sources reported that secret talks were held in Djerba on Sunday and involved, according to Tunisian secret service, members of Libya’s National Transition Council. That information was confirmed by a Tunisian radio station.

Meanwhile, however, it is impossible to verify whether talks have been held and who were the participants. In a statement, the UN denied that its envoy had participated in the discussions in Djerba. “Abdul al-Khatib arrived in Tunisia for meetings with Tunisian officials,” the statement read.

The National Transition Council, for its part, categorically denies that it has had any negotiations with pro-Gaddafi forces. “We have no one at this time who is negotiating with Mr. al-Khatib,” Mansour Seif am-Nasr said during his interview on FRANCE 24. “But the Libya of the National Transition Council is a free Libya. Its people are free to move around and to speak with whom they please. So maybe there are people who are negotiating with him, but they only represent themselves.”

After Gaddafi: a “free and democratic” Libya

Only one thing will end the fighting raging in Libya for nearly six months, according to the National Transition Council: the departure of Gaddafi and his family.

“Gaddafi can go where he wants,” said al-Nasr. “If he wishes to stay, we guarantee that justice will be free and fair. For the moment, if he wants to save human lives, he can just leave,” al-Nasr said. That statement contradicts remarks he made last week, “nothing can guarantee his security, after all the crimes he’s responsible for”, if Gaddafi chooses to stick to power.

The National Transition Council has said it will hold on to power for no more than eight months after Gaddafi’s regime crumbles. According to their “constitutional declaration”, power will be handed over to an elected assembly. The declaration also provides for the drafting of a new Constitution.

“The Libya of tomorrow will be free, democratic, with transparent elections, social justice, respect of human rights and of citizens,” al-Nasr said. “Gaddafi divided in order to conquer, but the Libya of tomorrow will not be divided.”

Date created : 2011-08-18


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