'Strikes on Libya rebels like Israel's crackdown on Gaza'

Gaddafi says that Israel used tanks to fight extremists; Libyan leader claims his country is important partner for West in containing al Qaida.

Muammar Gaddafi 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Muammar Gaddafi 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Monday likened the clampdown on dissidents in his country to what he called Israel’s crackdown of al Qaida terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
Gaddafi, in an interview with France 24 television station, said, “Even the Israelis in Gaza, when they moved into the Gaza strip, they moved in with tanks to fight such extremists. It’s the same thing here! We have small armed groups who are fighting us. We did not use force from the outset… Armed units of the Libyan army have had to fight small armed al Qaida bands. That is what’s happened."
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The interview came as a warplane launched an air strike on the eastern outskirts of Ras Lanuf on Monday, after witnesses reported Gaddafi's forces were advancing east towards the oil port.
Libya is an important partner for the West in containing al Qaida and illegal migrants trying to reach Europe, Gaddafi also said in the interview.
The Libyan leader said that the international media had created a distorted image of the violence in Libya over the past few weeks.
Earlier on Monday, a leading member of Libya's ruling establishment appealed to rebel leaders for dialogue, in the clearest sign yet that 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.
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."
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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.
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 Benghazi to negotiate the terms of his resignation.