By Lara Setrakian in Dubai Flavia Krause-Jackson in Abu Dhabi
June 10 (Bloomberg) -- The son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, Saif al-Islam, has approached rebels in the last few days to negotiate an exit from power for his father, an aide to National Transitional Council leader Mahmoud Jebril said.
“Of course, he is trying to put some terms. We understand those terms and we know how to play the negotiations,” Mohamed Al Akari told Bloomberg Television yesterday in Abu Dhabi, where foreign ministers from the 22-nation Libya Contact Group met. “We are talking now of the last stage of this operation.”
Qaddafi won’t be allowed to remain in Libya even though he is “dreaming of staying in the country,” Akari said.
South Africa and Senegal are among the countries that might offer him a safe haven, he added. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said Qaddafi had sent out many “feelers” to negotiate an end to the conflict.
The insurgency against Qaddafi’s four-decade rule began in February. Forces under the command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are fighting an air campaign in support of the rebels that intensified on June 7 with attacks on Qaddafi’s compound in the capital, Tripoli.
Libya’s OPEC Impact
The rebellion has cut oil production in the North African country by almost 90 percent, according to Bloomberg estimates. OPEC’s quota system has been weakened by the need to replace Libya’s lost oil, the secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Abdalla el-Badri, said after the group’s meeting in Vienna June 8.
Qaddafi requested refuge in a village in Libya and that isn’t possible, Al Akari said, partly because rebels can’t afford the security to prevent him from being assassinated. Qaddafi has previously said that he would rather die in Libya than leave.
“There have been obviously multiple feelers from the Qaddafi regime to various members of the international community coming every other day,” Rudd told reporters after the Abu Dhabi meeting. “In our view collectively, this represents growing desperation of the part of the regime as we believe it enters its end period.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at a press conference that “there have been numerous and continuing discussions by the people close to Qaddafi and we are aware that those discussions include among other matters the potential for transition.” Even so, “there is not any clear way forward yet,” she said.
‘He Has to Go’
Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez told reporters before the Abu Dhabi talks that “finding a place for him is now the critical issue, since everyone has agreed he has to go.” She said Turkey and South Africa are involved in working on a solution.
Uganda said on March 30 that it would consider a request for political asylum, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez still calls Qaddafi a “friend.” The Libyan leader may also find refuge in about a dozen African states, such as Zimbabwe, where he has investments and protection from prosecution for war crimes.
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade arrived yesterday in Benghazi, the rebel-held stronghold in eastern Libya. He intends to encourage negotiations during his trip, Wade’s spokesman, Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye, said by telephone June 8.
Wade appealed yesterday to Qaddafi to step down, a U.S. official said. Wade’s special adviser, Papa Dieng, declined to comment when contacted by telephone in Dakar, Senegal.
Bankrolling the Rebels
Separately yesterday, the Libya Contact Group established a mechanism through which countries can support the rebel council, the United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, told reporters.
“We are all working” to put the National Transitional Council “on firmer financial footing,” Clinton said. The U.S. supports the idea that to help the rebel council secure credit, a future Libyan government should honor any financial obligations that the council assumes on behalf of the Libyan people.
“Already, Kuwait announced it will transfer about $180 million, and Qatar will transfer $100 million through this mechanism,” she said.
The U.S. will continue to provide non-lethal supplies and work to “deepen all our relationships,” she said. ‘And also today, we announced $26.5 million of new funds to help all victims of this conflict, bringing the American total to nearly $81 million.’’
The international community has begun planning for what NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen described on June 8 as a “long and complex” transition to democracy in Libya.
Abdurrahman Shalgham, Libya’s former foreign minister and representative to the United Nations, told reporters in Abu Dhabi that rebel troops will reach Tripoli within “some weeks” and that Qaddafi has “very few days” left in power.
Clashes in Misrata
In Misrata, rebel commanders said yesterday that their requests for NATO Apache helicopter support against Qaddafi forces have gone unanswered. Spokesman Ibrahim Betalmal said rebel units reported 22 dead and 45 wounded in what he said was the heaviest series of government attacks since the rebels took control of the city in April.
The rebels have held their positions and are now braced for more attacks from Qaddafi troops massing to the east and west of the city, he said.
In Washington, Leon Panetta, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Robert Gates as secretary of defense, said it is important to be successful in pushing Qaddafi from power.
“If Qaddafi stays, I think it sends a terrible signal to these other countries,” Panetta said yesterday during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, referring to other Arab nations facing popular uprisings demanding reform.