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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Libya Cease Fire ? Gaddafi Government Accepts African Union Peace Plan, says Zuma



Libya: Gaddafi government accepts peace plan, says Zuma


South African President Jacob Zuma says the Libyan government has accepted an African Union peace plan to end the eight-week-old conflict.
Mr Zuma and three other African leaders met Libya's leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi, in Tripoli on Sunday. An AU team is now going on to the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
In Ajdabiya, pro-Gaddafi forces have pushed back rebels in fierce fighting.
Nato says its planes destroyed 25 government tanks on Sunday alone.
The African Union's road map calls for an immediate cease-fire, opening channels for humanitarian aid and talks between the rebels and the government.
"The brother leader [Col Gaddafi] delegation has accepted the roadmap as presented by us," Mr Zuma declared.
"We have to give the ceasefire a chance," he said, after several hours of talks.
Mr Zuma is now returning to South Africa. His foreign minister and the other AU heads of state will travel to Benghazi on Monday.
The British-based representative of the Libyan opposition leadership, Guma al-Gamaty, has told the BBC that they would look carefully at the AU plan, but that any deal designed to keep Colonel Gaddafi or his sons in place would not be acceptable.
An AU official said the idea of Col Gaddafi stepping down had been discussed, but gave no further details.
"There was some discussion on this but I cannot report on this. It has to remain confidential," said AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra.
"It's up to the Libyan people to chose their leaders democratically."
Tanks destroyed Nato air strikes have been continuing: the alliance says its planes destroyed 25 government tanks on Sunday alone.
Eleven were reportedly destroyed as they approached Ajdabiya and 14 were destroyed earlier near Misrata, the only city in western Libya still in rebel hands.
Accusing government forces of "brutally shelling" civilian areas, Nato said it was responding to a desperate situation in the two towns, under its UN mandate to protect civilians.
Reuters news agency photos said to have been taken near Ajdabiya after a Nato air strike on Sunday showed a number of charred bodies lying beside burnt-out pick-up trucks, on at least one of which a heavy machine-gun was mounted.
It was one of the biggest series of air strikes since the coalition's initial onslaught, the BBC's Jon Leyne reports from Benghazi.
'Dialogue' In all, the African Union mission comprised representatives from five nations: presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali and Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, and Uganda's Foreign Minister Henry Oryem Okello.
The mission has called for an "immediate end" to fighting, "diligent conveying of humanitarian aid" and "dialogue between the Libyan parties".
The five-strong panel was approved by the European Union to mediate in Libya.
Our correspondent says that the AU team's plan for the two sides to work together in a transition to democracy looks to be a non-starter.
He says neither side appears ready to make the compromises necessary for a ceasefire.
Col Gaddafi has ignored his own ceasefires in the past, including one announced immediately after the UN authorised a no-fly zone over Libya.
'Helicopters downed' Fierce fighting continued for a second day in Ajdabiya.
Heavy gunfire and loud explosions were heard in the town on Sunday, with reports of intense shelling of the town from the west, from where pro-Gaddafi forces are attacking.
One rebel to the east of Ajdabiya told Reuters: "There is resistance inside the city. Gaddafi forces are fighting with rebels. They have a presence inside."
Another said: "There are Gaddafi forces inside Ajdabiya in sand-coloured Land Cruisers and we know there are Gaddafi snipers in civilian clothing in the city as well."
Ajdabiya is important to the opposition as it controls a strategic crossroads and is the last town before the main rebel city of Benghazi.
Rebel forces had advanced towards Brega on Saturday but were forced back by a counter-attack.
Our correspondent says that once again, Libyan government forces have shown they are able to operate in a much more sophisticated way than the opposition.
They outmanoeuvred the rebels by coming in from the desert.
Our correspondent says the rebels reported capturing Algerian mercenaries from Col Gaddafi's forces, though this cannot be independently verified.
Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said government forces had shot down two rebel helicopters in the east but this also cannot be confirmed.
He said: "A clear violation was committed by the rebels to [UN] resolution 1973 relating to the no-fly zone."
Speaking in Brussels, the commander of the Nato operation, Lt Gen Charles Bouchard, said that air strikes were also targeting government ammunition bunkers and lines of communication.
He cited as "an example of Nato impartiality" a report that a MiG 23 jet flown by rebel forces had been intercepted and forced to land within minutes of taking off from Benina Airfield near Benghazi on Saturday.

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