Peaceful handover sought in Libya
Updated: 2011-09-07 13:32
BEIJING - Libyan rebel forces are seeking a peaceful handover of the town of Bani Walid, one of a few strongholds still held by Muammar Gadhafi's loyalists, and have reportedly clinched a deal. But Gadhafi's whereabouts and future remain unknown.
Al Jazeera reported Tuesday that Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) had reached an agreement with local tribal leaders to enter the town on Tuesday at 12:00 pm local time (1000 GMT), but the information has not yet been confirmed by the NTC.
Tunisia's official news agency TAP reported that Libyan rebel forces and delegates from Bani Walid Tuesday resumed talks over the town's peaceful handover, and Abdullah Kanchil, chief negotiator of the NTC, had promised that the NTC would spare their lives.
Ahmed Bani, the rebels' military spokesman, affirmed that they had reached an agreement with dignitaries of Bani Walid to enter the town without fighting.
Bani said that the rebels did not want revenge and the deal stipulates that no side would provoke any kind of clashes.
The rebels have extended the deadline for Gadhafi's troops in Bani Walid and Sirte to surrender until September 10. NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Tuesday that neither Gadhafi nor his sons were in the town of Bani Walid.
Gadhafi is still on the run, though rebels have taken control of most of the North African country and are working on setting up a new government to replace the former regime.
Gadhafi's daughter Aisha, together with her mother, Safiya, and brothers, Mohammed and Hannibal, arrived in neighboring Algeria last week and were allowed to stay there by the Algerian government.
French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said Tuesday that France's military assistance to rebel forces in Libya would continue until Gadhafi is captured.
Longuet said the Libyan leader "is likely alive" and is not attempting to remain in the country, and that France has "no information" about Gadhafi's possible exit from Libya.
For its part, Burkina Faso said Tuesday that Gadhafi was not in the country. Burkina Faso's Communications Minister Alain Traore said on state television that his country had not been informed of Gadhafi's arrival, and said his country was not expecting Gadhafi.
Rebel troops in Libya are continuing their manhunt for Gadhafi after they captured his stronghold in Tripoli on August 23.
Niger on Tuesday denied that Gadhafi was in Niger, while the US State Department said Washington does not believe that Gadhafi was among those entering Niger in a convoy.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US ambassador in Niger had discussed the matter with Nigerien officials.
"Apparently, a convoy has entered, and it does include some senior members of the Gadhafi regime, but we do not believe that Gadhafi himself was among them," she told reporters at a regular news briefing.
"We don't have any evidence that Gadhafi is anywhere but in Libya at the moment," she said, adding that the United States has not heard about Gadhafi's family members in the convoy.
A large convoy of civilian and military vehicles from Libya reportedly crossed into Niger late Monday. Nigerien officials denied that Gadhafi was aboard.
Nuland said the United States has strongly urged Nigerien officials to detain those members of the Gadhafi government who may be subject to prosecution, and confiscate any weapons and state property that were found.
NATO said Tuesday that it was not tracking Gadhafi, following reports of a Libyan military convoy with Gadhafi aboard crossing into Niger. NATO said its mission was to protect the civilian population in Libya, not to track and target thousands of fleeing former regime leaders, mercenaries, military commanders and internally displaced people.
NATO has repeatedly denied targeting Gadhafi.
Pan-Arab Al-Arabiya television reported Tuesday Gadhafi was not in the convoy crossing into Niger, but the NTC said the convoy was carrying money taken from a branch of the Central Bank of Libya in Gadhafi's birthplace of Sirte, a town that is still out of the rebels' control.
The head of Gadhafi's security brigade Mansour Dhao and several other senior officers of the Libyan army reportedly entered Niger on Monday aboard 30 vehicles.
A Nigerien police source told Xinhua that Dhao and his men entered Niger through the town of Agadez, 900 km northeast of Niamey.
The source said the motorcade was headed to Niamey in company of the ex-rebel chief for the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ) Agaly Alambo, who was in exile in Libya.
The source affirmed that the defeated Libyan generals were probably seeking asylum. "Niger cannot deny them asylum in accordance with the Geneva Convention in this regard," he said.
On August 27, Niger's government recognized the NTC as Libya's legitimate representative of the Libyan people.
Algerian media Tuesday reported that the Algerian authorities have ordered not to allow any official loyal to Gadhafi or his relatives to enter the country.
The authorities have extradited pro-Gadhafi officials from Algeria after they managed to enter the country during Ramadan, the local Echorouk newspaper quoted an official source as saying.
Algeria has refused to admit an education minister in the Gadhafi leadership and her family members via the Debdeb frontier port, and expelled former Libyan Sports Minister Fatah Mohamed Snoussi Kebal and one of his sons, as well as the former director of the state-run Libyan radio, the source said.
Algeria, which shares a border of hundreds of kilometers with Libya, has decided to close its southern border with Libya after some family members of Gadhafi arrived in Algeria, local media reported.