Libya rebels reject Gaddafi's negotiation offer


A rebel fighter walks on a destroyed billboard sign with the face of Muammar Gaddafi in Ras Jdir, West Libya on August 27, 2011. The rebels rejected Gaddafi's offer to negotiate a transition for Libya.


Carl De Souza

TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyan rebel forces rejected Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's offer of negotiations Sunday, dismissing the former dictator's proposal of discussions on the future of Libya as a "daydream."

Gaddafi offered to have his son Saadi lead discussions with the rebel forces on the formation of a transitional government, in a message to the Associated Press.

"I would like to state very clearly, we don't recognize the former government," Mahmoud Shammam, the information minister in the rebels' National Transitional Council, said in a press conference Sunday. "We are looking at them as criminals. We are going to arrest them very soon."

British foreign secretary William Hague referred to Col Gaddafi's statements as "delusional" during a live interview on Sky News. Hague said Gaddafi had clearly lost control already and his inclusion in discussions on the future rule of Libya was not an option.

"It is not on the cards, we are way past that point," said Hague during the interview. Hague added the National Transitional Council would welcome negotiations to try and end the violence and urged Gaddafi to tell his supporters to lay down their arms.

On the streets of Tripoli Sunday, Gaddafi's words were not well received. Many simply said the offer had come too late. Others called for the death of the former dictator, saying his words are nothing but a final plea as his regime breathes its last breath.

"Even if he offered this six months ago we would have had a revolution anyway," said restaurant owner Muored Franka, 49. "Let him rule for 42 years just to hand power down to his son? No way! Impossible! We need leaders who love Libya and the Libyan people, who will work for the good of Libya, like Mustafa Abdel Jalil."

It is not just Gaddafi that must go but his whole political system, said Sola energy researcher Ezzeden Mohammed. Gaddafi's system was based on fear and designed to keep anyone from speaking out, he said.

"We must build a new system, a new government, and new life for all Libyan people," said Mohammed. "The situation is not like Tunisia and Egypt who removed their leaders but kept the political system functioning. We are starting from nothing. It will take time, but now we can have a say in the way our country is run."

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As the two men freely discussed politics in the street with their friends for the first time in 42 years, women and children gathered several feet away to form a long line behind a water tanker.

"He speaks of handing over power? What power does he have anymore?" said Zara Mohammed as she headed home, two large water containers in hand. "That's what he gets for killing his people! Look at how we are living. May God give the rebels the power to prevail over Gaddafi and finish this revolution."

If Gaddafi had offered peace talks six months ago his people would have respected this offer, but it is "way too late" for negotiations now, said rebel fighter Mohammed Benaskar, 20.

"This revolution is not about financial or material gain," Benaskar said. "It is about dignity and standing up for ourselves."

As Gaddafi's regime continues to crumble, there is disturbing news of more deaths and atrocities committed by Gaddafi loyalists on their withdrawal from Tripoli. Grisly evidence and eyewitness accounts of arbitrary killings of detainees have emerged in the past few days stirring condemnation from human rights groups.

Fifty charred corpses were discovered Saturday in a hidden prison within a military base run by Brigade 32, an elite unit commanded by Gaddafi's son Khamis. One eyewitness described the scene that occurred on August 23 as a mass execution when guards opened fire on around 130 civilian detainees, throwing hand grenades at the crowd.

Meanwhile, residents in the capital continue to struggle with power, water, fuel and food shortages. Rebel leaders have vowed to resolve these shortages as soon as possible, but have called on the people of Tripoli to be patient.

Despite the hardships, most residents remain in high spirits, like 70-year-old Mohammed Mahjoub, a retired sergeant from Gaddafi's army.

"These young men have done something that we could not even dream of," he said. "May God bless the February 17 revolution. Even if this house crumbles on top of me right now, I will die happy knowing my children will be free."