No ceasefire without Gaddafi pullback: Libya rebels

AFP , Monday 11 Apr 2011

Revolutionary rebels insist any ceasefire must require the withdrawal of Gaddafi troops

A rebel fighter riding on the back of a pickup truck mounted with an anti-aircraft gun flashes the victory sign as they drive towards the town in a counterattack, following an advance by pro-Gaddafi forces, on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya Saturday 9 April 2011. (AP)

Libyan rebels said Monday that any ceasefire would require the withdrawal of government troops from the streets and freedom of expression, as African mediators were due in their stronghold.

"The people must be allowed to go into the streets to express their opinion and the soldiers must return to their barracks," Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, a spokesman for the rebels' Transitional National Council, 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 who have gone missing since the outbreak of the popular uprising and are believed to be held by Gaddafi's forces.

He said high-level African Union mediators, who met government officials in the capital the day before, were expected to arrive in the rebel stronghold city of Benghazi within hours.

He declined to give more details about their plans for security reasons.

South African President Jacob Zuma said Tripoli had accepted the African Union's plan for a ceasefire which would halt a NATO bombing campaign that destroyed 26 loyalist tanks on Sunday alone.

But the rebels doubt the Libyan strongman would adhere to such a deal.

"The world has seen these offers of ceasefires before and within 15 minutes (Gaddafi) 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 Gaddafi and his sons leave the country.

The revolt against his 41-year reign began as a wave of protests across the country in late February but soon escalated into a civil war after Gaddafi's troops fired on demonstrators and the rebels seized several eastern towns.

In recent weeks, loyalist troops have shelled Libya's third largest city, Misrata, which has been the scene of fierce fighting and has been largely closed off to reporters.

The government's troops have also pushed the rebels back on the eastern front, launching a major attack on the town of Ajdabiya on Saturday before being repulsed by rebel forces.


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