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NATO Says No to Offer For Talks as Fighting in Libya Continues

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi speaks during a live speech in this still image taken from video April 30, 2011
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi speaks during a live speech in this still image taken from video April 30, 2011

NATO has rejected an offer from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for negotiations to end the conflict in Libya. A NATO official said that NATO operations will go on as long as civilians in Libya are threatened.

Witnesses in the besieged western Libyan port city of Misrata say that forces loyal to Colonel Gadhafi shelled the city indiscriminately, once again Saturday, causing numerous casualties. The attacks came just hours after the embattled Libyan leader demanded that rebels in the city surrender, and urged NATO to accept a ceasefire and to begin peace negotiations.

NATO rejected the offer saying it wanted to see threats to civilians in Libya end.

Colonel Gadhafi made his demands during a rambling speech on Libyan TV early Saturday which lasted close to an hour and a half. The Libyan leader reiterated previous claims that he holds no official government post from which to resign and insisted he would never leave his country.

He said that he handed power over to the people after the revolution and that no one can force him to leave his country and that he will fight to defend it. He added that his ancestors fought Italy in 1911, and that Libyans will do so, once again.

Colonel Gadhafi stressed that Saturday is the anniversary of the Battle of Cartaba, during the 1911 Italian invasion of Libya, and vowed to take the current battle, which he calls an "open war," to Italian soil.

NATO planes bombed a Libyan government building in the capital Tripoli during Gadhafi's speech. It was not clear if he was in the building at the time, but he continued speaking despite brief blackouts of the TV signal. Gadhafi went on to condemn NATO for trying to kill him.

He asked if the United Nations actually decided to impose various blockades on Libya or to assassinate him by bombing his office? Is that, he asked, part of U.N. Security Council resolution 1970, or does destroying Libyan government buildings mean protecting civilians?

Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, deputy head of Libya's rebel Transitional National Council, replied by saying that the Libyan leader had proven his bellicose intentions, despite his repeated insistence that he would adhere to a ceasefire.

He said that Colonel Gadhafi's message to the world is clear: that he is mocking the will of the international community by refusing to put an end to military operations, despite his repeated assertions that he had done so.

Ghoga added that the ongoing government attacks on Misrata prove that Gadhafi has no concern for the lives of civilians.

On Friday, NATO warships intercepted Gadhafi forces as they tried to mine Misrata harbor. NATO operations commander Rob Weighill said several small boats were intercepted as they tried to lay anti-ship mines. Misrata harbor is a lifeline for supplies for the residents of Misrata.