Libya: rebels spurn peace

by Our Arab Affairs correspondent

LIBYAN rebels have turned down an African Union peace plan that would have ended the civil war with Muammar Gadaffi still in place as leader. An African Union delegation headed by Mauritanian leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and including President Jacob Zuma of South Africa held talks with Gaddafi in Tripoli this week before putting their plan to the rebel leaders in their stronghold of Benghazi.

The Gaddafi leadership accepted the plan that called for an immediate truce with rebels, who control most of the eastern province of Cyrenaica, that would be followed by negotiations with the rebel “National Transitional Council” to implement reform. But it was rejected out of hand by the rebels who said they would accept nothing less than the departure of Gaddafi and his family.

“The demand of our people from day one was that Gaddafi must step down,” Mustafa Jabril declared. Jabril who calls himself “prime minister “of the rebel government” said: “Any initiative which does not include this key popular demand will not be considered. Muammar Gaddafi and his sons should depart immediately.”

But rumours that Gaddafi was prepared to stand down were dismissed as nonsense by his son, Saif al Islam. The Libyan government was ready to talk to the rebels but rumours of his father stepping down were “ridiculous” Saif al Islam said.

It is time to inject “new blood” into the country’s leadership as Libyan leader Gaddafi is too old to control everything, but “the talk of (Gaddafi) leaving power, that’s truly ridiculous,” Gaddafi’s most prominent son told the media on Monday.

“We are ready to discuss even with the devil, but even the devil should know that there are red lines,” Saif al-Islam said.

But regime change is precisely what the imperialists want, or at least those from Britain, France and Italy who are providing most of the air support for rag-tag rebel militias that would have been easily swept aside by loyalist troops if it wasn’t for their Nato air-umbrella. The rebels control most of the eastern oil-rich province of Cyrenaica while the loyalists hold Tripolitania and the south, apart from a rebel held town in the west.

The continuing talk in Washington about “stalemate” in Libya and the fact that the Americans are winding down their military efforts in north Africa seem to indicate that US imperialism is preparing to partition the country.

A ceasefire that would freeze the division of the country would clearly suit US imperialism who would get almost everything they want out of Libya without risking another Iraq or Afghan style conflict.

The Arab world would be further divided. A rebel government in Cyrenaica would be totally dependent on imperialism and the big oil corporations while Gaddafi would have little

choice but to accept whatever the imperialists chose to leave him. Though this would include the much smaller western oil fields, a rump Libyan state would be equally dependent on the oil corporations to market the oil and develop the local energy industry.

Washington pulled its combat jets from the frontline last week, leaving the bombing to British, French and Canadian warplanes and confining its role to providing surveillance and refuelling planes.

Washington has still not recognised the rebel “government” — unlike France, Italy and Qatar. Furthermore US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seems to be implying that ending the fighting now has higher priority than removing the Gaddafi clan.

This isn’t the view in London, Paris or Rome. British Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on the rest of Nato to step up their efforts against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

Addressing an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg, Hague said: “We must maintain and intensify our efforts in Nato. That is why the UK has in the last week supplied additional aircraft for striking ground targets threatening the civilian population of Libya.”

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe claims that Nato had not done its best to defend Libyans while Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini insists that Gaddafi and members of his family should have no role in Libya’s future.

Meanwhile fighting continues along the coastal road between Tripoli and Benghazi as loyalist troops continue to defy the might of Nato aviation.