Libyan authorities appeal for dialogue with rebels

Official close to Gaddafi appealed on state television for rebels to "give a chance to national dialogue to resolve this crisis;" rebels say Gaddafi must resign.

Muammar Gaddafi 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Muammar Gaddafi 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
TRIPOLI - A leading member of Libya's ruling establishment appealed to rebel leaders for dialogue on Monday, in the clearest sign yet Muammar Gaddafi may be ready to compromise with opponents challenging his rule.
Jadallah Azous Al-Talhi, a Libyan prime minister in the 1980s who is originally from eastern Libya, appeared on state television reading an address to elders in Benghazi, the main base of the anti-Gaddafi rebels.
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He asked them to "give a chance to national dialogue to resolve this crisis, to help stop the bloodshed, and not give a chance to foreigners to come and capture our country again."
The appeal did not detail any concessions that Gaddafi's administration would be prepared to make. The rebels have said they will settle for nothing less than an end to Gaddafi's four decades in power.
Asked about the address, rebel official Ahmed Jabreel told Reuters: "Talhi is a close acquaintance of mine and he is widely respected in Libya as a man who stood up to Gaddafi. But we have made it clear all along that any negotiations must be on the basis that Gaddafi will step down. There can be no other compromise."
The fact that Al-Talhi's appeal was broadcast on tightly-controlled state television indicated that it was officially endorsed.
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Asharq al-Awsat reported on Monday that Gaddafi said he would be willing to leave his country if his and his family's safety was guaranteed. He reportedly sent a representative to Bengazi to negotiate the terms of his resignation
Until now Gaddafi and his entourage have shown little public appetite for dialogue, describing the rebels as armed youths under the influence of drugs who have been manipulated by al Qaeda and foreign powers.
Tripoli last week appointed an envoy to take humanitarian aid to Benghazi but it was not clear if the envoy had a mandate to negotiate with the rebels.
Security forces loyal to Gaddafi have strengthened their military position in the last few days, squeezing two rebel-held towns in the West and checking the advance of rebel militias westwards towards the capital.