Libya ready for talks with rebels
TRIPOLI, Libya – Libya’s government pushed a cease-fire proposal Thursday and said for the first time it was prepared to speak with its rebel adversaries, signaling that months of fighting and NATO bombardment may be closer to forcing some concessions.
Even so, the government insisted Moammar Gadhafi would not relinquish power, which he has held for more than 40 years. His departure is a key demand of the United States, European leaders and the rebels, who say they will not consider halting more than three months of fighting until Gadhafi goes.
“The leader, Moammar Gadhafi, is in the heart of every Libyan. If he leaves, the entire Libyan people leave,” said Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.
He told reporters in the Libyan capital Thursday that he was willing to hold talks with “all Libyans,” including members of the rebel administration based in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Officials from Gadhafi’s regime said before that they would not speak to the rebel government, arguing that it did not represent Libyans.
Late Thursday, at least five explosions were heard in Tripoli from NATO airstrikes. The targets were not immediately identified. Libyan gunners aimed anti-aircraft fire at the planes. Smoke was seen rising from the area of Gadhafi’s compound, a frequent target of NATO airstrikes.
In London, a person with knowledge of the situation said Britain has agreed in principle to supply Apache attack helicopters to the NATO effort. France has agreed to supply attack helicopters, which could hit pinpoint targets more easily than planes but would also be vulnerable to ground fire.
Al-Mahmoudi did not outline the government’s latest cease-fire proposal in detail but emphasized that NATO must be a party to it, not just the rebels. He would not say whether the government would meet NATO’s demands to return its military forces to their barracks.
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