BENGHAZI, Libya, (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi is welcome to live out his retirement inside Libya as long as he gives up all power, Libya’s rebel chief said in the clearest concession the rebels have so far offered.
Gaddafi has resisted all international calls for him to go and said he will fight to the end, but members of his inner circle have given indications they are ready to negotiate with the rebels, including on the Libyan leader’s future.
Gaddafi is still holding on to power, five months into a rebellion against his 41-year rule and despite a NATO bombing campaign and an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for crimes against humanity.
“As a peaceful solution, we offered that he can resign and order his soldiers to withdraw from their barracks and positions, and then he can decide either to stay in Libya or abroad,” rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil told Reuters in an interview.
“If he desires to stay in Libya, we will determine the place and it will be under international supervision. And there will be international supervision of all his movements,” said Jalil, who heads the rebels’ National Transitional Council.
Speaking in his eastern Libyan stronghold of Benghazi, Abdel Jalil, Gaddafi’s former justice minister, said he made the proposal about a month ago through the United Nations but had yet to receive any response from Tripoli.
He said one suggestion was that Gaddafi could spend his retirement under guard in a military barracks.
Abdel Jalil’s remarks stirred an emotional reaction in Benghazi, with a small protest against any talks with Gaddafi breaking out outside a hotel, and the rebel council playing down any speculation about a widening rift among its leaders.
Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, a council vice chairman, told reporters an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court against Gaddafi had now made any such proposal null and
Meanwhile Turkey, which had close economic ties to Gaddafi before the uprising, pledged $200 million in aid for the rebels on Sunday, in addition to a $100 million fund announced in June.
The rebels say they need more than $3 billion to cover salaries and other needs over the next six months.
“Public demand for reforms should be answered, Gaddafi should go and Libya shouldn’t be divided,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in Benghazi.
He added that Turkey saw the rebel council as the people’s legitimate representative.
The conflict in Libya is close to deadlock, with rebels on three fronts unable to make a decisive advance towards the Libyan capital and growing strains inside NATO about the cost of the operation and the lack of a military breakthrough.
Previous attempts to negotiate a peace deal have foundered, but some analysts say Gaddafi’s entourage — if perhaps not the Libyan leader himself — may look for a way out as air strikes and sanctions narrow their options.
Gaddafi’s daughter Aisha said last week her father would be prepared to cut a deal with the rebels though he would not leave the country.
But his son, Saif al-Islam, rejected calls for his father to quit Libya as the price of peace.
“To tell my father to leave the country, it’s a joke. We will never surrender . We will fight. It’s our country,” he told French TV channel TF1.
“We have to fight for our country and you are going to be legitimate targets for us,” he said of Western powers that have led air strikes against Libyan government forces.