Libya says Gaddafi stays, wounded relate siege hell

TRIPOLI/SFAX, Tunisia, (Reuters) – Forces loyal to  Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are staging a “massacre” in the  besieged city of Misrata, evacuees said yesterday, as Libya said  it was ready to discuss political reform, led by Gaddafi.

Libyan TV showed footage of Gaddafi saluting supporters  outside his fortified compound in Tripoli. But some residents of  the capital, angered by fuel shortages and long queues for basic  goods caused by a popular revolt and Western sanctions and air  strikes, began openly predicting his imminent downfall.

Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said Libya was ready for  a “political solution” with world powers.

“We could have any political system, any changes:  constitution, election, anything. But the leader has to lead  this forward,” he told reporters when asked about the content of  negotiations with other countries.

Muammar Gaddafi

With Libya in chaos, an official in neighbouring Algeria  told Reuters al Qaeda was exploiting the conflict to acquire  weapons, including surface-to-air missiles.

The U.S. State Department said it had raised concerns with  the Libyan rebels about the Islamist group obtaining arms in the  east of the country, where they are battling Gaddafi’s forces.

Evacuees from Misrata, the rebels’ last major stronghold in  western Libya, described the city as “hell”. They said Gaddafi’s  troops were using tanks and snipers against residents, littering  the streets with corpses and filling hospitals with the wounded.

“You have to visit Misrata to see the massacre by Gaddafi,”  said Omar Boubaker, a 40-year-old engineer with a bullet wound  to the leg, brought to the Tunisian port of Sfax by a French aid  group. “Corpses are in the street. Hospitals are overflowing.”

Misrata rose up with other towns against Gaddafi last month  but most others have been retaken by government forces.

“I could live or die, but I am thinking of my family and  friends who are stranded in the hell of Misrata,” said tearful  evacuee Abdullah Lacheeb, who had serious injuries to his pelvis  and stomach and a bullet wound in his leg. “Imagine, they use tanks against civilians. He (Gaddafi) is  prepared to kill everyone there.”

GADDAFI GREETING

State TV showed what it said was live footage of Gaddafi  briefly waving to supporters through the roof of a Jeep outside  his compound while bodyguards tried to prevent them mobbing him.

But in the lanes of Tripoli’s medieval market, some openly  forecast his fall as rebels battle his forces in eastern Libya.

“People from the east will come here. Maybe in two weeks,” said one entrepreneur who asked that his name not be used for  fear of reprisals. “But now, people are afraid.”

Stalemate on the frontline in the east, defections from  Gaddafi’s circle and the plight of civilians caught in fighting,  or facing shortages, have prompted a flurry of diplomacy.

Turkey said it was seeking to broker a ceasefire as an envoy  from Gaddafi’s government travelled to Ankara from Athens.

“Turkey will continue to do its best to end the suffering  and to contribute to the process of making a road map that includes the political demands of Libyan people,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

Turkey also expected en-voys from the rebel National Council soon, he added. A Turkish official said both sides “conveyed  that they have some opinions about a possible ceasefire”.

ITALY SAYS GADDAFI
MUST GO

Spokesman Ibrahim said Libya was ready to listen to outside  reform proposals and “try our best to meet you in the middle”.

But he added: “No one can come to the Libyan nation and say  to them: ‘You have to lose your leader, or your system, or your  regime’ … Who are you to say that?”

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini dismissed Libya’s  stance. “A solution for the future of Libya has a pre-condition:  that Gaddafi’s regime leaves and is out and that Gaddafi himself  and his family leave the country,” he said.

In Washington, the U.S. Treasury said it had lifted  sanctions against former Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa  in the hope that other senior officials would defect.

Koussa fled to Britain last week.

Scottish police, who want to question him over the 1988  Lockerbie airliner bombing, for which Libya accepted  responsibility and paid compensation to relatives of the 270  dead, were expected to meet him within days.

U.N.-mandated air strikes to protect civilians, led by the  United States, France and Britain, have so far failed to halt  attacks in Misrata by the Libyan army.

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