News / Africa

Battles Rage as Libya Rejects a Rebel Cease-fire Offer

Libyan rebels celebrate as they hear about air strikes at front line near Brega, Libya, April 1, 2011
Libyan rebels celebrate as they hear about air strikes at front line near Brega, Libya, April 1, 2011

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi continue their tank and artillery attacks against Misrata, Libya's third largest city and the only one in the western part of the country held by the rebels.

Friday's assault came the same day an opposition leader in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi proposed a cease-fire. Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, a former Libyan justice minister, said government troops first must withdraw from cities they now control, while ending their siege of those under control of the rebels. He also said Libyans living in western cities must be given the freedom to determine their fate.

The cease-fire offer, however, was almost immediately rejected by the Gadhafi government as a "trick." A government spokesman, Mussa Ibrahim, told reporters in Tripoli, the capital, the rebels' demands are "impossible." "They never offered peace," he said, instead demanding a withdrawal from "our cities."

There also has been heavy fighting in and around Brega, one of a string of oil towns along the Mediterranean coast that have changed hands since the uprising against the 42-year-old rule of Gadhafi began in mid-February.

On Friday, the Libyan government labeled the continued Western coalition air attacks in support of the rebels as "crimes against humanity." It said at least six civilians were killed in an air attack Thursday on a village near Brega.

As the fighting rages, a United Nations official concluded two days of talks with both sides in the conflict. On Thursday, special envoy Abdelilah Al-Khatib was in Tripoli, meeting with government officials. On Friday, he visited Benghazi for talks with rebel leaders, including Abdul-Jalil.

Also Friday, Mohammed Ismail, an aide to Gadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam, was in London visiting relatives and held talks with British officials on the situation in Libya. There also have been discussions involving Libya's former foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, who fled Tripoli on Wednesday and flew to Britain to defect.

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

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