BENGHAZI, Libya – Libyan rebels delivered an emphatic no to an African Union proposal for an end to fighting in their country, insisting that Moammar Gadhafi must step down from power as part of any diplomatic solution.
The opposition council’s announcement after closed-door talks with an African Union delegation in the rebel-held city of Benghazi quashed hopes for an early end to the nearly 2-month-old conflict between Gadhafi’s forces and opposition fighters in eastern Libya.
South African President Jacob Zuma said late Sunday after meeting with Gadhafi in Tripoli, the capital, that Libya’s leader had endorsed the African Union’s roadmap for peace. The proposal includes a cease-fire, the establishment of safe corridors for the delivery of humanitarian aid, and a dialogue on reforming Libya’s political system, which Gadhafi has ruled for more than four decades.
Zuma’s comments hinted at a possible diplomatic opening for ending Libya’s stalemate, but the head of the opposition’s political council Mustafa Abdul Jalil summarily dismissed the proposal after the closed-door talks with the African Union delegation.
“The African Union initiative does not include the departure of Gadhafi and his sons from the Libyan political scene, therefore it is outdated,” Jalil said. “We will not negotiate on the blood of our martyrs. We will die with them or be victorious.”
Jalil said the proposal had been around for more than a month. Rebels also complained that the initiative did not call for Gadhafi to withdraw his forces from besieged cities and did not allow protests, the latter a key opposition demand.