Rebels reject African Union peace proposal

April 11, 2011 at 3:43 PM
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BENGHAZI, Libya, April 11 (UPI) -- The opposition rejected an African Union peace proposal because it doesn't require Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi to cede power, rebel leaders said Monday.

The rebels' ruling council met with an African Union delegation Monday, one day after Gadhafi endorsed the plan, which included an immediate cease-fire, the suspension of NATO airstrikes and talks toward a political settlement, among other things, The Guardian reported.

African Union leaders said the government has accepted the plan to end the two-month conflict presented to Gadhafi during the weekend.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, revolutionary council chairman, said the African Union was told its month-old proposal was outdated by events, including the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing airstrikes, and was unacceptable because Gadhafi would remain in power during negotiations.

"From the very beginning we have been asking that the exit of Gadhafi and his sons take place immediately," Jalil said. "We cannot consider this or any future proposal that does not include this peoples' requirement. He leaves on his own or the march of the people will be at his doorstep."

In the streets of Benghazi, the rebels' headquarters, demonstrators waved revolutionary flags and carried signs saying, "No solution with Gadhafi staying," The Guardian reported.

William Hague, the British foreign secretary, supported the revolutionaries' position, saying Gadhafi must leave office and any cease-fire must meet the U.N. requirement that pro-Gadhafi forces withdraw from cities they are attacking.

"Anything short of this would be a betrayal of the people of Libya and would play into the hands of the regime, which has announced two utterly meaningless ceasefires since the fighting began without its vicious military campaign missing a single beat," Hague said.

Pro-Gadhafi forces recently pushed back rebels, but NATO warplanes struck government troops in and around Ajdabiya and Misurata Sunday, destroying 25 government tanks, the military alliance said on its Twitter page.

"The situation in Ajdabiya, and Misurata in particular, is desperate for those Libyans who are being brutally shelled by the regime," Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, commander of Operation Unified Protector, said in a NATO release. "To help protect these civilians we continue to strike these forces hard, with 11 tanks destroyed [Sunday] as they approached Ajdabiya, and 14 tanks destroyed earlier [Sunday] morning in the outskirts of Misurata."

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