BENGHAZI, Libya (AFP) – Libyan rebels on Monday rejected an African Union initiative for a truce accepted by Moamer Kadhafi, and said the only solution was the strongman’s ouster, an idea his son called “ridiculous.”
The rebel rejection came after NATO chiefs warned that any deal must be “credible and verifiable,” and as alliance warplanes were again in action against heavy Kadhafi weaponry pounding Ajdabiya and Misrata.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also stuck to US demands for Kadhafi to step down and leave Libya as part of a peaceful transition, but declined to comment on the proposed African Union deal before being fully briefed.
“We have made it very clear that we want to see a ceasefire, we want to see the Libyan regime forces pull back from the areas they have forcibly entered,” she told a news conference in Washington.
“We want to see humanitarian assistance reach the people of Libya. These terms are non-negotiable.
“We believe, too, that there needs to be a transition that reflects the will of the Libyan people and the departure of Kadhafi from power and from Libya.”
Kadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam admitted that it was time for “new blood” in Libya, but called talk of his father stepping down “ridiculous.”
“The Libyan Guide (Kadhafi) does not want to control everything. He is at an advanced age. We would like to bring a new elite of young people onto the scene to lead the country and direct local affairs,” he told France’s BFM TV.
“We need new blood — that is what we want for the future — but talk of the Guide leaving is truly ridiculous,” he added.
In Benghazi, rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil said the African initiative did not go far enough.
“From the first day the demand of our people has been the ouster of Kadhafi and the fall of his regime,” he said.
“Kadhafi and his sons must leave immediately if they want to be safe… Any initiative that does not include the people’s demand, the popular demand, essential demand, we cannot possibly recognise.”
NATO said it struck more loyalist targets around Ajdabiya and the besieged port of Misrata on Sunday and Monday, destroying 11 Kadhafi regime tanks and five military vehicles.
The regime warned that any foreign intervention under the pretext of bringing aid into Misrata would be met by “staunch armed resistance,” the official JANA news agency quoted the foreign ministry as saying.
“Libya will only accept humanitarian aid from the Red Cross and the Red Crescent,” it said, adding that it had informed the UN Security Council, the European Union and the African Union of its position.
Diplomats in Brussels said on Friday that the EU was gearing up to deploy military assets for a humanitarian mission to evacuate wounded from Misrata and deliver food, water and medicine to the city.
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that warplanes will keep pounding Libyan forces as long as civilians are at risk.
“I would also like to stress that the guiding principle for us will be how to implement the UN Security Council resolution fully, that is to protect the civilians against any attack,” he said.
Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, a spokesman for the rebels’ Transitional National Council, welcomed the African Union efforts, but demanded Kadhafi’s overthrow.
“The people must be allowed to go into the streets to express their opinion and the soldiers must return to their barracks,” he told AFP.
“If people are free to come out and demonstrate in Tripoli, then that’s it. I imagine all of Libya will be liberated within moments.”
He also demanded the release of hundreds of people missing since the outbreak of the popular uprising and believed to be held by Kadhafi’s forces.
South African President Jacob Zuma said earlier that Tripoli had accepted the African Union plan for a ceasefire.
“We also in this communique are making a call on NATO to cease the bombings to allow and to give a ceasefire a chance,” he said.
But White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters: “Our response to the quote, unquote, ceasefire is what matters here are actions and not words.
“Colonel Kadhafi and his regime know full well what they need to do,” he said, adding that Washington was not letting up in implementing the UN Security Council resolution in any way.
“The implementation continues and will continue as long as necessary. We continue to pursue our diplomatic and economic measures to tighten to noose around Kadhafi.”
The rebels doubted Kadhafi would adhere to a truce anyway.
“The world has seen these offers of ceasefires before and within 15 minutes (Kadhafi) starts shooting again,” Abdulmolah said.
The rebels have said they would negotiate a political transition to democracy with certain senior regime figures, but only on the condition that Kadhafi and his sons leave Libya.
Meanwhile, Libya’s former foreign minister Mussa Kussa, who is in Britain after defecting from Moamer Kadhafi’s regime, said Monday the restive nation could become a “new Somalia” if civil war broke out.
“I ask everyone, all the parties to avoid taking Libya into a civil war,” the former minister said in a statement issued to the BBC.
“This would lead to so much blood and Libya will be a new Somalia,” he said. “We refuse to divide Libya. The unity of Libya is essential to any resolution and settlement for Libya.”