April 4, 2011 in Nation/World

Libya ‘seeking a solution’

Gadhafi envoy meets with Greece’s prime minister
Ben Hubbard Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A Libyan rebel scans the field while waiting for the signal to advance near Brega, Libya, on Sunday.
(Full-size photo)

U.S. role extended

The U.S. was to have stopped flying strike missions in Libya as of Sunday after it passed control of the air operation to NATO last week. But alliance spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the U.S. approved a request to extend that role until today because of “poor weather conditions over the last few days.”

BENGHAZI, Libya – An envoy of Moammar Gadhafi told Greece’s prime minister Sunday that the Libyan leader was seeking a way out of his country’s crisis two weeks after his government’s attacks to put down a rebellion drew international airstrikes, Greek officials said.

Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi, a former Libyan prime minister who has served as a Gadhafi envoy during the crisis, will travel next to Turkey and Malta in a sign that Gadhafi’s regime may be softening its hard line in the face of the sustained attacks.

“From the Libyan envoy’s comments it appears that the regime is seeking a solution,” Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said in a statement after the meeting in Athens.

The foreign minister said the Greek side stressed the international community’s call for Libya to comply with the U.N. resolution that authorized the airstrikes and demanded Gadhafi and the rebels end hostilities.

The message, Droutsas said, was: “Full respect and implementation of the United Nations decisions, an immediate cease-fire, an end to violence and hostilities, particularly against the civilian population of Libya.”

Gadhafi’s government has declared several cease-fires but has not abided by them.

Few other details of the Athens talks were released publically.

On Friday, the Libyan envoy had said Gadhafi’s government was attempting to hold talks with the U.S., Britain and France in an effort to halt the international airstrikes that began March 19 and which have pounded Libya’s troops and armor and grounded its air force.

On Sunday, Gadhafi’s forces pressed on with attacks against Misrata, the last key city in the western half of the country still largely under rebel control despite a weeks-long assault.

Government troops besieged civilian areas for around two hours Sunday morning with rockets and mortar shells and lined a main street with snipers, said a doctor in the city.

Two shells landed on a field hospital, killing one person and injuring 11, he said.

A leader of the rebel movement, meanwhile, sought to ease concerns from Western governments about its character and goals, emphasizing in an interview that the rebels will not allow Islamic extremists to hijack their plans to install a parliamentary democracy in place of Gadhafi’s four-decade rule.

“Libyans as a whole – and I am one of them – want a civilian democracy, not dictatorship, not tribalism and not one based on violence or terrorism,” said Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, vice chairman of the opposition’s National Provisional Council.

A British diplomatic team arrived Saturday in the rebels’ de facto capital of Benghazi to speak to members of the opposition council to learn more about their aims, British officials said Sunday.

Other fighting Sunday was concentrated around the strategic oil town of Brega, as it has been repeatedly during weeks of back-and-forth battling along Libya’s eastern coast. The rebels, backed by airstrikes, made incremental advances.

In Tripoli, an opposition supporter said Sunday that anxiety was spreading in areas of the capital as dozens of people disappear in pre-dawn raids, apparently carried out by Gadhafi’s security apparatus.

“They pick them up from their houses and they disappear. We don’t know if they’re still alive or dead,” said the activist who spoke on condition he not be identified to avoid arrest.

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