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Libya wants more talks amid NATO strikes

07-25-2011 10:29 BJT

TRIPOLI - Libya is ready to hold more talks with the United States and with rebels trying to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi, but the Libyan leader will not bow to demands he quit, a government spokesman said.

Moussa Ibrahim said Libyan officials had a "productive dialogue" with US counterparts last week in a rare meeting that followed American recognition of the rebel government that hopes to end Gaddafi's 41-year rule.

"Other meetings in the future ... will help solve Libyan problems," the spokesman told reporters in Tripoli late on Friday. "We are willing to talk to the Americans more."

He said Gaddafi would not leave his position nor Libya.

Hours later NATO planes bombed targets in the capital, causing damage and casualties, Libyan state television said, without giving details.

NATO said it had hit a "command and control node".

A witness heard at least six blasts early on Saturday, the largest to hit the capital in several weeks, four of them shaking the hotel hosting international media.

Rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Gaddafi must agree publicly to stand down before any talks could begin.

"There are no negotiations with this regime unless he declares his departure and that he is stepping down, he and his sons, from power," he said in a weekly statement to Libyans broadcast on rebel-run television.

As Gaddafi clings to power despite five months of civil war and a NATO bombing campaign authorised by a UN resolution, the West is increasingly hoping for a negotiated settlement.

But the United States also says Gaddafi must go.

Ibrahim said Libyan officials - but not Gaddafi himself - would be willing to hold further meetings with rebels, who now control roughly half of Libya, only on the government's terms.

"Nations do not negotiate with armed gangs," he said. Gaddafi is urging Libyans to persuade rebels to disarm and rejoin the loyal fold -- and to fight them if they don't.

His comments came as Libya reported a NATO airstrike near the eastern oil hub of Brega, the scene of recent fighting, which the government said killed six guards at a water plant.

NATO said the strike targeted a "military storage facility" rather than the water pipeline plant.

Editor:Wang Chuhan |Source: China Daily

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