Borrowed from the New York Times - Thank you
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
TRIPOLI, Libya — At least two sons of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi are proposing a resolution to the Libyan conflict that would entail pushing their father aside to make way for a transition to a constitutional democracy under the direction of his son Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, a diplomat and a Libyan official briefed on the plan said Sunday.
The rebels challenging Colonel Qaddafi as well as the American and European powers supporting them with air strikes have so far insisted on a more radical break with his 40 years of rule. And it is not clear whether Colonel Qaddafi, 68, has signed on to the reported proposal backed by his sons, Seif and Saadi el-Qaddafi, although one person close to the sons said the father appeared willing to go along.
But the proposal offers a new window into the dynamics of the Qaddafi family at a time when the colonel, who has seven sons, is relying heavily on them. Stripped of one of his closest confidantes by the defection of Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa and isolated by decades of attempted coups and internal purges, he is leaning on his sons as trusted aides and military commanders.
The idea also touches on longstanding differences among his sons. While Seif and Saadi have leaned toward Western-style economic and political openings, Colonel Qaddafi’s sons Khamis and Mutuassim are considered hard-liners. Khamis leads a fearsome militia focused on repressing internal unrest.
And Mutuassim, a national security adviser who also commands his own militia, has been considered a rival to Seif in the competition to succeed their father. But Saadi, who has drifted through careers as a professional soccer player, a military officer and a businessman, firmly backs the plan, an associate said.
The two sons “want to move toward change for the country” without their father, one person close to the Seif and Saadi camp said Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “They have hit so many brick walls with the old guard, and if they have the go-ahead, they will bring the country up quickly.” One son, this person said, has said many times that “the wishes of the rebellion were his own.”
The proposals are the latest turn in a drama between Seif and his father that has played out for years on the stage of Libyan public life as the son has alternately pushed forward with calls for political reforms and then pulled back. During the recent revolt, he appeared to march in lockstep with his father in vowing to stamp out the rebels. “We are coming,” he declared to a crowd of supporters who chanted, “Seif al-Islam, step on the rats.”
The proposals are also the latest sign that the Qaddafi government may be feeling the pressure from two weeks of allied airstrikes that have severely diminished the advantage in equipment of the Qaddafi militias. A senior Libyan official arrived in Athens for talks about a potential resolution to the conflict, the Reuters news service reported. And Mohamed Ismail, a top aide to Seif, is returning from a trip to London, where, a Libyan official said, he presented the proposal for Seif to take over from his father.
Mutuassim may be particularly resistant because of his longstanding rivalry with Seif.
After Seif made a high-profile trip to Washington to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2008, a WikiLeaks cable reported, the attention paid “exacerbated tension with his siblings.”
When Mutuassim visited Washington the next year, the American ambassador to Libya wrote, “Mutuassim’s desire to visit Washington this spring and his seemingly overweening focus on having meetings with senior U.S. government officials and signing a number of agreements are driven at least in part by a strong sense of competition with Saif al-Islam.”
In a recent interview with the pan-Arab news channel Al-Arabiya, Saadi suggested that before the revolt Seif was already “the person who used to run the show every day in Libya.” The defection last week of Mr. Koussa, the former top aide to Colonel Qaddafi, removes a figure who had been considered a leader of the old guard distrustful of Seif and opposed to reform.
A diplomat familiar with the proposal, however, said discussions remained in the initial stages. Despite the evidence of deep internal discontent, Colonel Qaddafi appears to believe that rebellion against him is a foreign conspiracy of Islamist radicals and oil-hungry Western powers attempting to take over Libya, the diplomat said. And the rebels, who have set up their own provisional government, continue to insist on the exit from power of Colonel Qaddafi and his sons.