Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Sources within the Libyan opposition National Transitional Council have informed Asharq Al-Awsat that they have received indications, from international mediators, that Gaddafi is willing to step down from power. This proposal would see Colonel Muammar Gaddafi remaining in a symbolic position, with power being transferred to his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who would rule the country for a transitional period to be decided on by the parties concerned. Asharq Al-Awsat was unable to confirm whether this proposal was part of the African Union’s ceasefire or not.
Sources within the National Transitional Council told Asharq Al-Awsat that they have received confirmation that Gaddafi is prepared to step down so long as this is done in a dignified and secure manner. However the sources said that the messages they received from Tripoli did not clarify the kind of figurative or symbolic position that Colonel Gaddafi intends to hold in the future.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi, sources said that the National Transitional Council – which is led by former Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil – could accept Saif al-Islam Gaddafi as leader for an agreed upon transitional period, so long as Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is not present in any shape or form in the management of the executive affairs of the Libyan state. The source said that despite the public reservations expressed over Saif al-Islam Gaddafi as a leadership candidate – with him being viewed by some as nothing more than an extension of his father – it would be far easier to deal with him than Colonel Gaddafi, who is completely rejected by the majority of the Libyan population.
However the source within the National Transitional Council also acknowledged the difficulty of convincing the Libyan public, particularly those in eastern Libya which has been under rebel control for more than a month, to accept this proposal, especially in light of the controversial and combative statements issued by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi during the early weeks of the popular uprising.
With the military confrontation between the Libyan army and the anti-Gaddafi rebels stagnating, both sides appear willing to reach a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiations.
A source within the anti-Gaddafi rebel forces told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the situation on the ground is not good, we need weapons and fighters and money. Whilst it is true that we are fighting for a cause, namely freedom, enthusiasm alone is not enough.” He added “if there is a political and peaceful solution, why not?”
However the anti-Gaddafi rebel stressed that any proposal must, at the very least, include Gaddafi stepping down from power. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that “if Gaddafi leaves power, and if Libya transforms into a modern and democratic state, then there is nothing to fight about…we are not bearing arms to fight the Gaddafi forces, but rather to protect the unarmed civilians.”
It seems that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is trying to revive his old project [of reforms], which includes implementing wide-spread political and economic reforms upon the Jamahiriya political system imposed upon Libya by his father following the 1969 revolution. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has also spoken about drawing up a new constitution for the country, and transforming Libya into a democratic state, widening public freedoms, as well as media freedoms. However many Libyan opposition figures have expressed their reservation about the figure of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, saying that he would be nothing more than a puppet of his father.
A high level Libyan official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, has said that Gaddafi seems now more than ever, accepting of a political solution to the crisis. The official, speaking from Tripoli, said that “yes, he is prepared for this [political solution], we just have to take into account his history and what he contributed to the country.”
The official added “Gaddafi previously stated that he is not a president or a ruler, but rather the leader of the revolution that he implemented in 1969 to overthrow the monarchy, this means that we can elect a president according to an agreed upon framework. [Muammar] Gaddafi will not nominate himself, but perhaps Saif al-Islam will.”
Many Libyans have said that they do not want Colonel Gaddafi, or indeed any member of the Gaddafi family, to determine the political future of Libya; however aides close to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi have stressed that he is not like his father, and that he will be more open with the opposition.
Sources close to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi have said that he is prepared to stand for election, in internationally monitored presidential elections. This proposal would also see the formation of a new parliament that does not include members of the hard-line Revolutionary Committees that are known to be fanatical loyal to Colonel Gaddafi.
Libyan deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim previously informed journalists during a press conference in Tripoli that a new constitution would be adopted by Libya in the near future, whilst Libyan parliamentary speaker Mohammed Abul-Qassim al-Zwai has said that a draft constitution has already been prepared, and will be considered soon.