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Libya's Rebels Deny Holding Talks With Gadhafi Aides


Head of National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil (file photo)

Head of National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil (file photo)

Libyan rebels have denied reports that they have held talks with aides to leader Moammar Gadhafi, as their forces advance toward Tripoli hoping to oust his government.

The head of the Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, said Tuesday no direct or indirect negotiations have taken place with Gadhafi representatives. He said such talks are "unthinkable" unless the Libyan leader steps down.

His comments counter Western news reports that Mr. Gadhafi's aides met earlier this week with Libyan rebels at a hotel on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The reports said U.N. Libya envoy Abdul Ilah al-Khatib joined the talks.

In other news, NATO has condemned Libya's use of a scud missile in its battle against the rebels advancing toward Tripoli. NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero said the Gadhafi government's use of the short-range ballistic missile shows that it is "desperate."

Libyan rebels are capturing key towns to the south and west of Tripoli, and are trying to cut off supply routes to the capital in their bid to force Mr. Gadhafi from power.

In Washington, U.S. officials said Mr. Gadhafi's days are "numbered."

The rebels say they control most of Zawiya, a strategic town 50 kilometers west of Mr. Gadhafi's power base in Tripoli. Libyan officials deny the rebels have taken control of that town.

Rebel fighters entered Zawiya last week in their closest approach to the capital since the early weeks of the uprising.

Rebel officials say their fighters also captured the towns of Surman, 60 kilometers west of Tripoli, and Gharyan, 80 kilometers south of Tripoli. Those claims could not be independently verified. Control of Zawiya, Surman and Gharyan would allow the rebels to cut off Tripoli from a key highway to the south and another leading west to Tunisia.

In an audio message broadcast on Libyan state television Monday, Mr. Gadhafi urged his people to fight to "liberate Libya" from rebels who began their uprising in February to end his 42-year rule. He called the rebels "traitors" and denounced NATO as a "colonizer" for staging airstrikes in support of the uprising.

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

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