Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Arab and western diplomatic sources have informed Asharq Al-Awsat that secret communications have been taking place with the Libyan government which aim to convince Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi to step down from power. In addition to this, an official close to Colonel Gaddafi has denied that the Libyan leader has put forward any political deal to the opposition National Transitional Council – led by former Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil – agreeing to step down from power in return for the rebels guaranteeing him safe passage outside of the country, as well as legal immunity for any crimes he may have committed during his 42 year reign.
The Libyan official, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat from Tripoli yesterday, said that the only deal that the Gaddafi regime had put forward to the National Transitional Council was a deal formulating national reconciliation and which aimed to stop the bloodshed in the country. As for the issue of Gaddafi stepping down from power, the Libyan official said that this is not up for discussion with any party, internally or externally. The official told Asharq Al-Awsat “let me reiterate what has been said before, Colonel Gaddafi is not a president or a traditional ruler that can step down or be removed from power, he [Gaddafi] previously said that if he were a president he would have thrown his resignation in the face of those who are calling for this.”
The Libyan official also stressed that Colonel Gaddafi is not looking for a safe haven outside of Libya or a safe means of leaving the country, adding that Gaddafi will continue to remain in his position as the leader of the revolution.
In a recent interview conducted by Al-Saadi Gaddafi with an Arab satellite television channel, he accused his brother Saif al-Islam Gaddafi of failing to implement reforms ordered by their father. However the Libyan official told Asharq Al-Awsat that al-Saadi Gaddafi’s statements had been taken out of context, adding that “this is part of an attempt to drive a wedge between the Gaddafi children and senior aides, but let me confirm to you that these accusations are not true.” The Libyan official refused to comment about the reported gunfire heard coming from within the Bab al-Azizah stronghold in Tripoli last week, and rumors that this was part of a stand-off between Gaddafi’s children.
A division within the Libyan National Transitional Council and its leader has also emerged. This council, which was initially established in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, was formed to govern the Libyan areas liberated from Gaddafi control, and is made up of a number of senior former Gaddafi regime figures, including its leader former Justice Minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil, as well as former Libyan representative to the Arab League Abdul-Monem al-Houni. Asharq Al-Awsat learnt that Jalil wants to give Gaddafi a 72-hour deadline to step down from power in return for legal immunity regarding the recent bloodshed in Libya, whilst other members within the Libyan opposition oppose such a deal and want to see Gaddafi arrested and tried for crimes against humanity.
Tripoli has denied that Gaddafi has received any offers from the National Transitional Council and has scoffed at the idea of Gaddafi relinquishing power that he does not in fact possess. In response to this, senior member of the National Transitional Council Abdul-Monem al-Houni, told Asharq Al-Awsat “if Gaddafi, as he claims, is not serving as the legitimate president of the country, then the question that must be asked is: in what capacity does he hold the powers of a state president and order the killing of Libyan citizens?”
Asharq Al-Awsat also learnt that the leader of a western government close to the Gaddafi regime intends to form a European delegation made up of the heads of oil companies operating in Libya which will travel to Tripoli to offer Gaddafi a deal, legal immunity from prosecution in return for him agreeing to step down from power.
A Western source informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “as time passes, we will discover that there is no military solution to end this situation [in Libya]. There is a secret project taking place…by some former Gaddafi allies to convince him to step down from power before he leads his country into the abyss.” Whilst an Arab source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Arab League is part of these deliberations and that the National Transitional Council has given its preliminary endorsement of such a deal, should Gaddafi accept and agree to step down from power.
Asharq Al-Awsat also learnt that Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa conducted a telephone conversation with leader of the Libyan National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdul Jalil against the backdrop of the Arab League’s preparations to host an emergency meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers on Friday in Cairo.
There have been rumors that Jalil has been invited to attend the emergency meeting and participate in the Arab League’s deliberations on Libya, which would represent the first opportunity for the leader of the Libyan opposition to address the international community, whilst also striking a political blow against the Gaddafi regime. However a source close to Jalil told Asharq Al-Awsat that it is not likely that the leader of the National Transitional Council will have the time to attend this meeting, saying that “there is a small change that he will attend, but it is unlikely.”
For his part, al-Houni told Asharq Al-Awsat that he expected the Arab foreign ministers to take an important decision to support the international efforts to establish a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent the Gaddafi regime from continuing brutal airstrikes against the rebels. He also said that he expected the Arab League to pledge urgently needed humanitarian aid to the Libyan people, without restrictions or conditions. Al-Houni denied that Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country has provided the anti-Gaddafi forces with military assistance, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that “it is not true that we are receiving military support, however for our part, we welcome any party that wants to offer this.”
In addition to this, senior Saif al-Islam Gaddafi aide Mohamed Ismail confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that he has not been killed, as some rumors have claimed, saying “I am here in Tripoli drinking tea. The situation here is good and I have not been killed.”