Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi has accepted a roadmap for ending the conflict in Libya including an immediate ceasefire, the African Union said on Monday, but protesters said the roadmap would only work if Mr. Qaddafi left power.
He met with a delegation of African leaders by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, at the Libyan leader's Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli. Among the topics discussed was NATO stopping air strikes on government targets to “give ceasefire a chance,” according to Mr. Zuma.
The plan that Mr. Zuma presented to Colonel Qaddafi calls for an end to fighting, cooperation in delivering humanitarian aid, and talks between the protesters and the government.
African Union officials did not insist that Mr. Qaddafi remove his troops from cities, as his opponents have demanded, according to The Associated Press.
In addition to Mr. Zuma, the AU delegation included three other African leaders: Presidents Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, and Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo.
Earlier truce offers from Mr. Qaddafi have come to nothing and protesters, who took up arms across the east and in some towns in the west after he crushed protests in February, have said they will accept nothing less than an end to his 41-year-old rule, according to Reuters.
The British-based representative of the Libyan opposition leadership, Guma al-Gamaty, said his group would look carefully at the AU plan, but would not accept any deal designed to keep Mr. Qaddafi or his sons in place in Libya, Britain’s BBC reported. Until the conflict started in February, Libya exported 1.7 million barrels of oil a day.
NATO steps up attacks
NATO, which took control of the Allied military operation on March 31, stepped up attacks on Mr. Qaddafi’s armored divisions on Sunday. These troops had besieged Misrata in the west. The NATO attacks were also aimed at halting an advance the troops loyal to Mr. Qaddafi made in the east.
After almost two months of fighting, these troops, and those aligned with the opposition have fought to a stalemate, with battles moving back and forth in a small area along the coast. Neither has been able to take or hold territory for long.
Since the start of the conflict, Al Arabiya broadcast on Nilesat has been suffering an intentional jamming that came from Tripoli, which caused the channel to put alternative frequencies to enable the viewers to follow up with the developments in Libya.
Colonel Qaddafi has vowed not to leave Libya, and a cease-fire that would keep him in power has been rejected by protesters on previous occasions.
Airstrikes blew up 11 tanks belonging to forces loyal to Mr. Qaddafi as they approached Ajdabiya, AP reported, and 14 more were hit earlier on the outskirts of Misrata. The strikes also left craters in the road used by Qaddafi forces to resupply troops shelling Ajdabiya, NATO said.
NATO, mandated by the United Nations to protect civilians in Libya from attacks by Mr. Qaddafi’s forces, said it had increased the tempo of air operations over the weekend, after protesters accused it of responding too slowly to government attacks.
Medics told Agence-France Presse that at least 12 protesters were killed in and around Ajdabiya over last weekend.
Britain’s former prime minister, Tony Blair, told CNN on Sunday that Mr. Qaddafi should not be underestimated.
“Whatever people say about being delusional and so forth, he’s kept that grip there for 40 years,” Blair said on the channel's “State of the Union” program.
(Abeel Tayel of Al Arabiya can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org)