Gaddafi’s son pleads for polls as Moscow courts peace

Russian envoy Mikhail Margelov was in Tripoli on Thursday seeking to mediate in Libya’s conflict, as Muammar Gaddafi’s son said the strongman was ready to accept internationally supervised elections.

Margelov, the Africa envoy of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, was meeting Libya’s prime minister, Baghdadi al-Mahmudi.

Margelov’s spokesperson Varvara Paal said in Moscow that the envoy during his one-day visit would meet the prime minister and the foreign minister but was not scheduled to meet Gaddafi.

No place for Gaddafi
Repeating Moscow’s call for the Libyan leader to step down Margelov said: “Gaddafi is not inscribed in the future of Libya.”

“I have planned to meet the PM and foreign minister but if the colonel wants to receive me then I have [said] what I want to say,” Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted him as saying in Tripoli.

Last week, Margelov travelled to the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi and afterwards to Cairo, where he held talks with Gaddafi’s cousin Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam and others within the strongman’s circle.

He has said that Moscow would be prepared to offer a preliminary “roadmap” for settling the conflict.

But Gaddafi’s eldest son Seif al-Islam told an Italian newspaper that elections were the only way to break the stalemate.

Polls for peace: May the best man win
“Elections, immediately and with international supervision. It’s the only painless way to break out of the impasse in Libya,” Seif told the daily Corriere della Sera correspondent in Tripoli.

“We could hold them within three months. At most by the end of the year. And the guarantee of transparency could be the presence of international observers,” Seif was quoted on Thursday by the paper as saying.

The elections, he added, could be supervised by the European Union or African Union, the United Nations or even Nato as long as a “mechanism” was put in place to ensure there were “no suspicions of vote rigging”.

“Let’s go to the polls, and may the best man win,” Seif told the reporter at a hotel in Tripoli.

At least five anti-Gaddafi rebels were killed and 30 wounded when they came under sniper attack in three villages they seized on Wednesday in western Libya, hospital sources said on Thursday.

The attacks took place in the villages of Zawit Bagoul, Lawania and Ghanymma, the hospital sources told a correspondent in the western town of Zintan.

The rebels overran the three villages on Wednesday as they sought control of a key junction connecting the towns of Yafran and Zintan.

Rebels were seen patrolling the streets of Zawit Bagoul, 20km from Zintan. Pro-Gaddafi positions on the outskirts of Zawit Bagoul were deserted and loyalists left behind clothes, shoes and ammunition.

The correspondent said the rebels later also moved into Lawania, about seven kilometres away, and then Ghanymma, less than 10km from Yafran, as Nato aircraft were heard overhead.

Empty hotel destroyed
Nato warplanes destroyed an apparently empty hotel in the centre of the Libyan capital on Thursday morning.

The Wenzrik Hotel is near administrative buildings and the headquarters of Libya’s state broadcaster, which has been already been targeted and damaged by air raids.

Reporters were taken by Libyan authorities to the site of the dawn raid, which left only sections of wall standing. The attack did not cause any casualties, the authorities said.

Russian envoy Margelov also briefly visited the site.

In Washington on Wednesday evening, a bipartisan group of US lawmakers sought to throw a roadblock in front of President Barack Obama’s Libya policy, filing a lawsuit that charges that US military operations are unconstitutional.

Anti-war Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich and nine other members of the House signed the lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s circumvention of Congress in authorising use of military force in a protracted campaign.

The White House later delivered a 30-page report to Congress that it said justified its role in the Libya conflict and insisted that Obama did not exceed his powers in ordering the action. — AFP

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