Libya’s government is pushing a ceasefire proposal and has for the first time said it’s prepared to speak with its rebel adversaries, signalling that months of fighting and NATO bombardment may be closer to forcing some concessions.
Even so, the government on Thursday insisted Muammar Qadhafi would not relinquish power, which he has held for more than 40 years. His departure is a key demand of the United States, European leaders and the rebels, who say they will not consider halting more than three months of fighting until Col. Qadhafi goes.
“The leader, Muammar Qadhafi, is in the heart of every Libyan. If he leaves, the entire Libyan people leave,” said Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.
He told reporters in the Libyan capital that he was willing to hold talks with “all Libyans,” including members of the rebel administration based in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Officials from Col. Qadhafi’s regime said before they would not speak to the rebel government, arguing that it did not represent Libyans.
Also on Thursday, three rebel fighters were killed and 20 others wounded in clashes with government forces near the western city of Misrata, said Dr. Mustafa Taha from the city’s central Hikma Hospital. It was unclear if any government soldiers died in the clash, about 20 km west of the city, the only one under rebel control near Tripoli.
Late Thursday, at least five explosions were heard in Tripoli from NATO airstrikes. The targets were not immediately identified. Libyan gunners aimed anti-aircraft fire at the planes. Smoke was seen rising from the area of Col. Qadhafi’s compound, a frequent target of NATO airstrikes.