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Gadhafi sons make conflicting appeals

, / 05:58 AM September 02, 2011

Tripoli, Libya—Two men claiming to be Moammar Gadhafi’s sons have made conflicting appeals from hiding, one of them calling for talks with rebel leaders and the other urging the regime’s loyalists to fight to the death.

The dueling messages on Wednesday night reflected the growing turmoil in Gadhafi’s inner circle on the eve of the 42nd anniversary of his rise to power. This year, the dictator is a fugitive from opposition fighters who have seized most of the country in a six-month civil war. Now, they say they’re hot on his trail.

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In Paris, world leaders gathered on Thursday to discuss Libya’s future, with hosts France and Britain hoping to show that a costly military campaign can lead to a political transition that avoids the mistakes of Iraq.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron will host the first “Friends of Libya” conference.

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Russia and China, which did not back the Nato intervention championed by Sarkozy and Cameron in March and which have yet to recognize Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council (NTC), will be among some 60 nations and international bodies represented at the conference.

Britain’s Royal Air Force flew in crates of freshly printed bank notes worth $227 million to Libya on Wednesday to help the NTC pay public workers and banks to replenish cash machines.

The cash—280 million Libyan dinars—is part of a consignment of new notes worth about $1.5 billion ordered from British printing company De La Rue Plc by Gadhafi which was blocked by Britain in March.

Conflicting messages

“Returning money to the Libyan people is part of our commitment to help the NTC rebuild Libya and help create a country where the legitimate needs and aspirations of the Libyan people can be met,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

The rebels are pooling tips about Gadhafi’s whereabouts from captured regime fighters and others, and believe he is most likely no longer in Tripoli, said Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the rebels’ military chief in the capital.

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Rebel forces have been advancing toward three regime strongholds: the town of Sirte, Gadhafi’s hometown, as well as the towns of Bani Walid and Sabha, the latter hundreds of miles south of the capital of Tripoli.

There has been speculation that Gadhafi is hiding in one of them.

In telephone calls to Arab TV stations within minutes of each other on Wednesday night, two men claiming to be Gadhafi’s sons sent messages to the Libyan people.

A man identifying himself as Seif al-Islam Gadhafi urged his father’s supporters to fight the rebels “day and night.” He told the Syrian-based Al-Rai TV station that residents of Bani Walid agreed that “we are going to die on our land.”

He said Nato had carried out several air strikes in Bani Walid that killed people.

“All, move right now,” said Seif al-Islam, once considered the moderate face of the Gadhafi regime and the leader’s heir apparent.

“Attack the rats,” he said, referring to the rebels.

Surrender terms

He said he was calling from a suburb of Tripoli and that his father “is fine.”

The caller dismissed comments by Belhaj that another Gadhafi son, al-Saadi, was negotiating the terms of his surrender. Seif al-Islam said his brother was under pressure, in part out of concern for his family.

In a separate phone call to the Al-Arabiya TV station, a man identifying himself as al-Saadi said he was ready to negotiate with the rebels to stop the bloodshed. Rebel leaders have repeatedly said they won’t negotiate until Gadhafi is gone.

Al-Saadi said he spoke for his father and regime military commanders in calling for talks. He said that the rebels could lead Libya.

“We don’t mind. We are all Libyans,” he said. “We have no problem to give them power.”

The voice of Seif al-Islam—who was reportedly captured by the rebels earlier this month only to turn up free and defiant in Tripoli—was easily recognizable, but al-Saadi’s was more difficult to confirm.

“The regime is dying,” said rebel council spokesperson Abdel-Hafiz Ghoga, reacting to the two statements.

“Gadhafi’s family is trying to find an exit,” he said. “They only have to surrender completely to the rebels and we will offer them a fair trial. We won’t hold negotiations with them over anything.”

Ghoga told The Associated Press later on Wednesday that the rebels learned two days ago that Gadhafi and his sons Seif al-Islam and al-Saadi were in Bani Walid, but now he didn’t know their whereabouts.

Ultimatum

Hassan al-Saghir, a rebel official who oversees an area that includes the southern city of Sabha, repeated an ultimatum for Gadhafi’s supporters to surrender by Saturday but said there were no signs of that.

“I think they still think they are able to control the south,” he said. “It is a desperate attempt and it will not last long.”

Earlier, Belhaj said al-Saadi called him on Tuesday to negotiate the terms of his surrender. Belhaj said he told al-Saadi he would be turned over to Libyan legal authorities after he turns himself in.

“We told him, ‘Don’t fear for your life. We will guarantee your rights as a human being, and will deal with you humanely,’” said Belhaj, speaking at his headquarters at an air base in Tripoli.

Asked by Al-Arabiya if he was offering to surrender, al-Saadi said: “If my surrender will put an end to the bloodshed, I will do that.”

SAS troops join hunt

British special forces soldiers are in Libya hunting for Gadhafi, who they believe is still in the country after neighboring Algeria denied him entry, ITV News reported on Wednesday.

Large numbers of Special Air Service (SAS) officers are using ships docked off the Libyan coast to launch searches for the elusive strongman and his network of supporters, a source in the country told the news provider. A smaller team is believed to be operating out of the eastern city of Benghazi.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense on Wednesday refused to confirm the report, adding that it was government policy not to comment on special forces operations.

Also on Wednesday, two Sabha-area rebel officials said the son of Gadhafi’s intelligence chief was killed in fighting last week. Mohammed Ouydat, a rebel spokesperson for Sabha, said the intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi, one of Gadhafi’s closest allies, had set up a tent in Sabha to greet mourners after the death of his son, Mohammed.

The younger al-Senoussi and Gadhafi’s son Khamis were killed in a clash with rebels on their way to Bani Walid, Ouydat said. There have been conflicting claims about Khamis’ fate and neither report could be independently confirmed.

Gadhafi’s eight adult children have played influential roles in Libya, from commanding an elite military unit to controlling the oil sector. Al-Saadi, 38, headed the Libyan Football Federation, and at one point played in Italy’s professional league but spent most of his time on the bench.

Gadhafi’s wife, Safiya, sons Mohammed and Hannibal, and daughter Aisha fled to Algeria on Monday. Aisha gave birth to her fourth child on Tuesday in Algeria. With Reuters

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TAGS: “Friends of Libya”, Al-Saadi Gadhafi, British Prime Minister David Cameron, dictator, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Fugitive, Gadhafis, Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, National Transitional Council (NTC), NATO, Nato intervention, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, Tripoli
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