A deadline for Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi to step down and stay in the country has expired, the chief of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) said on Wednesday, as the warring parties spar over ways to end the conflict.
Meanwhile, Britain gave a major boost to the rebels by expelling Gaddafi’s envoys from the Libyan embassy in London, and inviting the rebels to take it over — which drew a welcome response from the NTC .
NTC chief Mustafa Mohamed Abdel Jalil told journalists in Benghazi the rebels had delivered to UN special envoy Abdul Ilah al-Khatib “a very specific, well-intentioned offer that Gaddafi can stay in Libya under three conditions”.
“We made a proposal. The deadline has passed. The proposal has expired,” he said of the month-old offer.
Under the offer, Gaddafi would have had to step aside and relinquish all responsibilities, his place of residence would be the “choice of the Libyan people” and he would be under “close supervision,” Abdel Jalil said.
“The period of this proposal has passed,” he said. “We cannot ignore the fact that the people who have been standing against him want him out.”
Abdel Jalil added it is “disappointing and inexplicable that the NTC has received a counter-proposal stating that the council, being the representative of the Libyan people, should share responsiblities of government of Libya with the Gaddafi regime”.
On Tuesday, following visits to the rebel bastion Benghazi and the capital Tripoli, Khatib said Libya’s rivals “remain deeply divided on how to reach a political solution”.
A statement quoted Khatib as saying both sides “remain far apart on reaching agreement on a political solution” but had reaffirmed to him “their desire to continue to engage with the United Nations in the search for a solution”.
Troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi and rebels seeking to oust the strongman have fought their way into a stalemate five months after the start of a popular uprising that quickly turned into a civil war.
The Libyan leader is in control of much of the west and his Tripoli stronghold while the opposition holds the east from their bastion in Benghazi.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday that his country had expelled all remaining staff at the Libyan embassy and recognised the rebel National Transitional Council as Libya’s sole legitimate government, inviting it take over the embassy in London.
“The prime minister and I have decided that the United Kingdom recognises and will deal with the National Transitional Council as the sole governmental authority in Libya,” Hague said.
Britain is one of the lead nations in a Western alliance that has been carrying out an aerial campaign against Gaddafi’s regime since March.
The NTC chairperson hailed the British decision, saying “we express tremendous appreciation for this recognition”.
The council, Abdel Jalil said, expected the United Kingdoms and Turkey to become the first countries to release some of Libya’s frozen assets, which “unfortunately have not been liquidated to date”.
In that vein, Hague said Britain would also unlock £91-million of Libyan oil assets frozen under a UN Security Council resolution so that the rebels could benefit from them.
Abdel Jalil promised that the rebels would honour all of Libya’s international agreements made before February 17, and that it would comply with the wishes of the international community over the fate of Gaddafi, who is now a “wanted man”.
“Gaddafi and his followers as a result of all these recognitions from the international community have become outlaws,” Abdel Jalil said.
The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in the Hague that Libya and any future government of the country had an “obligation” to arrest Gaddafi.
On June 27, ICC judges issued arrest warrants for the embattled Libyan leader, his son Seif al-Islam, and Libyan spy master Abdullah al-Senussi for crimes against humanity allegedly committed since the uprising started against Gaddafi in mid-February.
Britain and France have indicated it was up to Libyans to decide whether Gaddafi stayed in the country, but it has been suggested he might stay on if he quits power, despite demands that he faces international justice for atrocities committed to put down the revolt.
In other developments, a Libyan sought damages against Nato in a Belgian civil court, accusing the alliance of killing his wife and three children in an air strike, his lawyer said on Wednesday. — AFP