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Thu 9 Jun 2011 07:36 PM

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Gaddafi son said to have approached rebels with exit plan

South Africa among countries that might offer Libyan leader safe haven, rebel aide says

Gaddafi son said to have approached rebels with exit plan
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif Al Islam

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif Al Islam, has approached rebels to negotiate an exit from power for his father in the last few days, an aide to National Transitional Council leader Mahmoud Jebril said.

“Of course, he is trying to put some terms. We understand those terms and we know how to play the negotiations,” Mohamed Al Akari told Bloomberg Television on Thursday in Abu Dhabi, where foreign ministers from the 22-nation Libya Contact Group are meeting. “We are talking now of the last stage of this operation.”

Gaddafi won’t be allowed to remain in Libya even though he is “dreaming of staying in the country,” Al Akari said. South Africa is among the countries that might offer him a safe haven, he added.

The insurgency against Gaddafi’s four-decade rule began in February. A month later NATO-led forces launched an air campaign in support of the rebels that intensified on June 7 with attacks on Gaddafi’s compound in the capital, Tripoli. The Libyan leader’s isolation increased in recent weeks with a series of high-profile defections.

Before the third meeting of the contact group began on Thursday in Abu Dhabi, Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez told reporters of the efforts to negotiate Gaddafi’s departure.

“We still don’t even know if Gaddafi will accept a negotiated exit, but of course there are many countries willing to facilitate this because it will end the conflict,” Jimenez said. “Finding a place for him is now the critical issue, since everyone has agreed he has to go.”

She declined to say which countries would be prepared to accept Gaddafi, while saying that Turkey and South Africa are involved in working on a solution to the issue.

Uganda said on March 30 it would consider a request for political asylum, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez still calls Gaddafi a “friend.” The Libyan leader may also find refuge in about a dozen African states, such as Zimbabwe, where he has investments and protection from prosecution for war crimes.

The international community has begun planning for what NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Wednesday described as a “long and complex” transition to democracy in Libya.

“We are working with our international partners through the UN to plan for the inevitable: a post-Gaddafi Libya,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in prepared remarks in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. “In the days ahead, we have to coordinate the many plans taking shape.”

The escalation of NATO’s air campaign comes as the rebels make gains. At the moment, they control areas in eastern Libya and Misrata in the west, while Gaddafi has held on to Tripoli.

Abdurrahman Shalgham, Libya’s former foreign minister and representative to the United Nations, told reporters in Abu Dhabi that rebel troops will reach Tripoli within “some weeks, and that Gaddafi has “very few days” left in power.