Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Independent Arab and Libyan sources have informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi is seeking to convince the coalition forces to accept a deal that is being secretly discussed between Gaddafi delegates and a number of Arab and American parties. This deal would see Gaddafi stepping down from power, only to be replaced by his son Saif al-Islam, with a deadline being put in place for a peaceful transition of power.
A well-informed Libyan source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has held a number of secret meetings with officials in the French and British governments, discussing the idea of his replacing his father for a transitional period of between 2 – 3 years, in return for a comprehensive ceasefire and negotiating with the anti-Gaddafi rebels.
The sources also revealed that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is pushing for assurances that Colonel Gaddafi and his family will be granted immunity from prosecution, and will not be legally punished in any manner.
The sources revealed that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s plan would see him take over control of Libya from his father during a transitional period during which Libya would transform from a revolutionary state to a democratic state that enjoys public and economic freedoms.
The rebel forces are gaining strength and momentum, moving westwards towards the center of Gaddafi’s support in Sirte, and the Libyan capital Tripoli. The rebels have recently captured the cities of Ajdabiyah, Brega, and Ras Lanuf, and Gaddafi’s aides are racing against time to prevent the inevitable toppling of the regime in the face of the rebels’ momentum.
Asharq Al-Awsat learnt that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who has not appeared in public for almost a week, has been in contact with officials in the US, British, and Italian governments, in an attempt to submit the above-mentioned plan. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that his country will present an alternative diplomatic plan to the British – French plan, on London on Tuesday.
The Italian Foreign Minister said that NATO will take control of the Libyan operation no latter than Monday, saying “NATO will take over Sunday or Monday.” He also revealed that he would be participating in a meeting of NATO members in London that is scheduled for Tuesday.
Frattini also revealed that he has spoken with Mahmoud Jibil, head of the Libyan National Transitional Council in Benghazi, who reassured him that the rebel council is committed to a united Libya, and will respect all of Libya’s oil contracts.
Sources within the National Transitional Council also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that what is happening on the ground with regards to the conflict between the Gaddafi forces and the rebels, cannot be resolved by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s plan [to replace his father], stressing that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is nothing more than an extension of his father.
An official within the Libyan National Transitional Council told Asharq Al-Awsat that “this is just a new political maneuver, and we will not participate with this in any way, shape, or form. If Gaddafi wants a solution, he must leave power immediately, otherwise he should wait for us; we are marching on him and will meet him on his home territory, whether in Sirte or Tripoli.”
Libyan Transitional Council spokesman Abdul Monem al-Houni told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Libyan rebels consider this proposal to replace Colonel Gaddafi with his son, Saif al-Islam, to be nothing more than an attempt to gain time and fool public opinion. He described this proposal as being nothing more than a test balloon being floated by Gaddafi, saying that in his opinion, Colonel Gaddafi has no intention of relinquishing power peacefully.