Gaddafi govt says in talks, rebels say he must go

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – The Libyan government said yesterday it was in talks with opposition figures but there seemed little chance of a swift end to the conflict as both sides stuck to entrenched positions on the fate of Muammar Gaddafi.

The leader’s son Saif al-Islam, in combative form, told a French newspaper there was no question of negotiating an end to his father’s 42-year rule, while the rebels, stepping back from a hint of a concession, renewed their demand that he go now.

A spokesman for Gaddafi’s administration said high-ranking government officials had been in foreign-mediated talks in Italy, Egypt and Norway with opposition figures to try to find a peace deal, and that talks were still going on.

Any talk of a possible accommodation with Gaddafi could drive a wedge into the ranks of the disparate rebel movement which sprang up in February in the wake of uprisings in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt.

Many of Gaddafi’s opponents are flatly opposed to any form of concession to the veteran leader and are mistrustful of former Gaddafi associates who have defected to join the rebels.

The government spokesman named one of the opposition figures in the talks as Abdel Fattah Younes al-Abidi, Gaddafi’s former security minister who defected in February. It was not clear whether the talks took place with the knowledge or endorsement of the leadership of the rebel National Transitional Council.

The council, which a growing number of countries say is the Libyan people’s sole legitimate representative, has said there are no talks between it and Gaddafi’s administration.

“In the last few weeks and in several world capitals, high-ranking Libyan government officials have met with members of the Libyan opposition to negotiate peaceful ways out of the Libyan crisis,” the government spokesman said in an e-mailed statement.

“Other direct negotiations still take place as of now.”

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