'Libyan foreign minister says free elections a possibility'

Report: Abdul Ati al-Obeidi tells 'Guardian' that elections could be held within six months to end the conflict; calls for ceasefire.

April 20, 2011 11:38
2 minute read.
Libyans standing on a tank

libya tank celebration 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Libya could potentially hold free United Nations-supervised elections within six months after the end of the Libyan civil conflict, the Libyan foreign minister told the British-daily the Guardian Wednesday.

The Libyan regime ready to consider and interim government even before elections would be held, Abdul Ati al-Obeidi told the Guardian, despite Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi's claim that the current regime is gaining the upper hand in the conflict.

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As for current leader Muammar Gaddafi, who anti-government protesters demand step down, Obeidi said discussions would include a frank analysis as to his future role. In the case Gaddafi doesn't relinquish power, it was also being considered what role he may play in a subsequent government.

Speaking to foreign media, the foreign minister seemed interested not in one side championing on the other, but rather in how "we can sit together with our brothers."

Obedia's tone was noticeably more conciliatory than that of Gaddafi's son, Said al-Islam, who, according to Dubai-based Arabic news channel Al-Arabiya, said that "the situation is turning in favor of the the ruling Libyan regime, and that Libya is "not Egypt or Tunisia," slamming the anti-government forces of seeking "oil wealth."

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Obeidi, however, insisted that the Libyan government was seeking a ceasefire with rebel forces and NATO to be monitored by an international watchdog. Obeidi said that talks with the Libyan rebels would be impossible if bombardment and violence continued.

""If there is a real ceasefire and these bombs stop, we could have a real dialogue among Libyans," he said.

The Libyan foreign minister also blamed Western powers for exacerbating the current situation and for the inability to reach a ceasefire.

"What's stopping it? Britain, France and to a certain extent the US are stopping it by continuing bombardment, arming the other side and making them more defiant," he told the Guardian.

Despite any talks of a cessation of violence by the Libyan government, however, pro-Gaddafi forces continued their assault on the besieged city of Misrata which has been a site of heavy back-and-forth battles between pro- and anti-government forces. According to the Guardian, witnesses described intense government bombing with rockets, Katyushas and cluster bombs, as well as snipers picking off individual civilians.

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