Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Sources within the Libyan rebel National Transitional Council, which represents the anti-Gaddafi revolutionary forces in the country, have revealed that they are prepared to turn a blind eye to Gaddafi seeking refuge in an African country, in order to avoid further bloodshed and put an end to the ongoing political and military crisis that has been taking place in Libya over the past 3 months.
The sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that National Transitional Council leader, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, said that “the Council could pledge not to legally pursue any Libyan official, including Gaddafi, on the condition that he leaves the country with his family and his top aides, to reside in one of the African states that is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court [ICC] statute.”
The sources also quoted Abdul Jalil as saying that “the Council is not prepared to sit down at the negotiating table so long as Gaddafi is present in any capacity, and should Gaddafi decide to leave Libya and step down from power, in response to the demands of the Libyan people, the rebels will pledge not to seek to pursue or prosecute Gaddafi.”
As for Gaddafi insisting on remaining in power, the sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that in this case, Abdul Jalil and the Libyan National Transitional Council will have no choice but to “finish off” Gaddafi and his military forces.
The sources added that “the National Transitional Council is still waiting for Turkey to present Gaddafi with the proposal put forward by Abdul Jalil to senior Turkish officials during his recent visit to Ankara.” The Libyan rebel sources also stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat that time is running out for Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
For his part, National Transitional Council representative Ali al-Issawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the bill increases with every day that Gaddafi spends in power, and he must leave now, by which I mean yesterday.” He added “the Libyans will not leave him if he continues to stubbornly insist on remaining in power…this situation must come to an end!”
The National Transitional Council, based in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, has always insisted that it is “open” to any proposal or initiative that will lead to Gaddafi’s removal from power. However this is something that Gaddafi has comprehensively rejected, with Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi telling the media on Thursday that “Muammar Gaddafi is in the hearts of all Libyans, if he does, they all go!” In the same press conference, al-Mahmudi revealed that the Libyan government had asked the United Nations and African Union to prepare and monitor a ceasefire, but ruled out the departure of Colonel Gaddafi.
Rebel sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that “a truce, at this stage, would mean the division of Libya, which is something that Gaddafi wants. We reject this ceasefire because it does not include any guarantees that Gaddafi will not attempt to circumvent this to re-supply and re-organize his military forces.”
An official Egyptian source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that Egypt is not prepared to recognize the Libyan National Transitional Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people, adding that Cairo prefers to have balanced relations with both parties in the Libyan crisis.
However the Libyan rebel sources warned Asharq Al-Awsat against the “attempts to marginalize the Egyptian role in this crisis”, stressing that Cairo will most likely play a central and indispensable role in finding a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis.
These statements came at a time that a high-level Egyptian diplomatic delegation is visiting the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the headquarters of the National Transitional Council, which represents the first visit of its kind by Egyptian diplomats.
The Egyptian delegation is being led by former Egyptian deputy foreign minister, Hany Khallaf, who is being sent to Benghazi as a special envoy to represent Egypt in talks with the Libyan National Transitional Coucil.
Khallaf told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Egyptian delegation will meet with the military leaders of the Libyan rebel forces, including former Libyan Interior Minister General Abdul Fattah Younis, who commands the Libyan rebel forces. The Egyptian delegation will discuss the situation with regards to the reported 500,000 Egyptian citizens living in Libya, stressing the importance of ensuring their safety. They will also discuss Libya’s future, the need to keep its national unity intact, as well as Egypt’s role in the Libyan crisis and the need to keep an open dialogue with all Libyan factions.
This represents the first official contact between Cairo and the National Transitional Council, although a number of other Arab states have recognized the rebel Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people, including Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, and Jordan.
Khallaf previously visited Tripoli earlier this month, which was also the first time that a high-level Egyptian official has visited Tripoli since the outbreak of the Libyan uprising on 7 February 2011. Gaddafi previously enjoyed strong relations with the Mubarak regime, however after the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, it seems that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – which is ruling the country during this transitional period – are not inclined to keep such close ties with the Gaddafi regime.
NATO is continuing to bombard the Libyan capital, carrying out a rare daytime air strike on Saturday following a fifth night of attacks, adding to military and diplomatic pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to quit after more than 41 years in power.