News / Africa

South Africa, Libya Hold Inconclusive Talks as Officers Defect

South African President Jacob Zuma (C-R) is greeted by Libyan PM Baghdadi al-Mahmudi (front-R) and local tribesmen upon his arrival in Tripoli on May 30, 2011
South African President Jacob Zuma (C-R) is greeted by Libyan PM Baghdadi al-Mahmudi (front-R) and local tribesmen upon his arrival in Tripoli on May 30, 2011

South African President Jacob Zuma made little progress towards brokering a Libya peace deal in talks with leader Moammar Gadhafi as eight army officers became the latest senior figures to break with the Libyan government.

Mr. Zuma told Libyan media in Tripoli Monday that Mr. Gadhafi wants a cease-fire to include an end to NATO bombing, terms already rejected last month after an earlier mediation mission by the South African president. Mr. Zuma also did not say the Libyan leader is ready to step down, the central demand of the rebels', who quickly rejected the latest offer.

Libyan television broadcast footage of Mr. Gadhafi welcoming Mr. Zuma, the Libyan leader's first reported public appearance since May 11.

In April, Mr. Zuma led an African Union delegation to Tripoli with a truce proposal. Mr. Gadhafi said he would accept the terms, but quickly resumed his attacks, while anti-government rebels rejected the cease-fire because it did not include the Libyan leader's exit from power.

Meanwhile, eight top Libyan army officers held a press conference in Rome Monday, claiming they are part of some 120 soldiers who recently defected from Libya.

The appearance by five generals, two colonels and a major was organized by the Italian government.

The men read an appeal to fellow army officers and top police and security officials, urging them to abandon Mr. Gadhafi's government. One of the officers denounced what he said was "genocide" and "violence against women" in various Libyan cities. Another estimated that Mr. Gadhafi's military is now operating at only 20 percent capacity.

Earlier Monday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance's nearly two-month-long campaign of airstrikes in Libya has "seriously degraded" the ability of Mr. Gadhafi's forces to kill their own people. Speaking at a NATO forum in Bulgaria, Rasmussen said Mr. Gadhafi is "increasingly isolated" at home and abroad with close allies "departing, defecting or deserting" the Libyan leader.

NATO forces have been operating under a U.N. Security Council mandate to protect civilians from Mr. Gadhafi's attempts to crush the uprising. Libya's state news agency says NATO airstrikes killed 11 people in the western town of Zlitan on Monday. There was no confirmation from NATO on that report.

Also Monday, an Internet video showed a rare anti-Gadhafi demonstration in Tripoli. In the video, protesters at a funeral were seen chanting "Moammar [Gadhafi] is the enemy of God!" Activists said the video was filmed Monday at the burial for two slain protesters in a suburb of the capital, but this could not be independently confirmed.

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

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