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Libyan Government Says It Has Been Holding Talks With Opposition


Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird (L) exchanges gifts with the head of Libya's National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil, during his first visit to the rebel-held city of Benghazi, June 27, 2011

Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird (L) exchanges gifts with the head of Libya's National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil, during his first visit to the rebel-held city of Benghazi, June 27, 2011

Officials from the Libyan government of Moammar Gadhafi say there have been talks with opposition leaders about ending the four-month-old conflict.

The Associated Press quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim as saying Monday that talks have been on-going for two months. It was not clear if talks involve the Transitional National Council which has represented rebels in international diplomacy.

Meanwhile, the head of NATO defended the alliance's Libya mission during a visit to Russia, which has criticized NATO's military strikes as going beyond its United Nations' mandate.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen spoke in the Russian city of Sochi on Monday where he is discussing Libya with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and South African President Jacob Zuma.

Russia did not vote on the U.N. Security Council resolution in March that gave NATO the mandate to protect civilians in Libya with military means. As NATO has increased airstrikes to support rebel forces, Russia has said NATO is overstepping the U.N. aims.

The talks in Russia come as the son of Gadhafi warns that the family will not quit or leave Libya.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi told the French TV channel TF1: "We will never surrender."

Libya's rebel leadership has issued conflicting statements on whether it would allow Gadhafi to remain in the country under a new government.

Transitional National Council head Mustafa Abdel Jalil contradicted earlier opposition statements that a Gadhafi exit from the country is an absolute prerequisite to bring about the end of the months-long conflict.

Jalil told Reuters Television Sunday that once the Libyan leader resigns, "At that point he can decide if he would stay in Libya or abroad."

"If he desires to stay in Libya, we will be the ones to determine the place and there will be international supervision on all his movements and communications," he said during an interview in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Jalil was reacting to an African Union peace plan which Libya's rebels have interpreted to mean Gadhafi should have no further role in the country's leadership.

Jalil took the reins of the rebel movement after resigning from Libya's government in February over what he saw as excessive use of force against demonstrators calling for the leader's resignation.

Libyan government spokesman Musa Ibrahim has previously said the prospect of a peace deal would be welcomed, but not one that rests on Gadhafi's departure.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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