Video: In Tripoli, signs that Gadhafi stronghold is hurting

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    >>> back now to the business of foreign policy and the president's overseas trip. while world leaders were laying out their position on libya, things have changed dramat lically in the past few weeks. richard engle has made his way back to trip olli to show you what life is like there today.

    >> reporter: tripolo seems sad but different. different in profound ways from our last visit. six weeks ago in tripoli , every time we took out a camera, crowds rushed up to show their loyalty to moammar gadhafi . back then in green square , there were pep rallies for the cult of gadhafi every day. now in green square , the platform where the rallies were held is empty, the bandstand broken. even gadhafi 's giant portrait doesn't hang straight anymore. gadhafi himself hasn't been seen in public in weeks, only making rare television appearances from undisclosed appearances. the area around gadhafi 's compound was bombed three times adjust this week, a staharp increase. british intelligence say gadhafi may be hiding in hospitals. libyans who oppose the regime are generally too scared to speak on scam racamera, but one man said he believes 90% of the people are against it. across tripoli , there's little sign of the bomb damage. markets are full. there's still plenty to buy. customers are few. so many shops are closed. economic sanctions are having a major impact here. perhaps even more than the bombing campaign itself. fuel shortages are now so severe, it is take up to four days waiting in line to fill up your car. we have been told banks will eon eonly distribute up to $600 a month no matter how much money is in the account, and inflation is driving up prices at least 50%. but the regime remains in control here. as we filmed, security stopped us. not wanting the world to see that tripoli , gadhafi 's stronghold, is hurting. richard engle, nbc

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updated 5/27/2011 7:28:00 PM ET 2011-05-27T23:28:00

Russia abandoned one-time ally Moammar Gadhafi and offered Friday to mediate a deal for the Libyan leader to leave the country he has ruled for more than 40 years.

The striking proposal by a leading critic of the NATO bombing campaign reflects growing international frustration with the Libyan crisis and a desire by the Kremlin for influence in the rapidly changing Arab landscape.

With Gadhafi increasingly isolated and NATO jets intensifying their attacks, Russia may also be eyeing Libya's oil and gas and preparing for the prospect that the lucrative Libyan market will fall into full rebel control.

Early on Saturday, two NATO air strikes shook the Libyan capital, Tripoli. It was not immediately clear what was targeted.

"He should leave," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said of Gadhafi. "I proposed our mediation services to my partners. Everyone thinks that would be useful."

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The proposal thrust Medvedev into the spotlight at a summit in France of Group of Eight rich nations. Talk of this year's Arab world uprisings has dominated the summit.

Analysts question whether Russia still has any leverage over Gadhafi, and the leaders of France, Britain and Germany said there's no point in negotiating directly with the Libyan leader himself.

"If Gadhafi makes this decision, which will be beneficial for the country and the people of Libya, then it will be possible to discuss the form of his departure, what country may accept him and on what terms, and what he may keep and what he must lose," Medvedev told reporters.

Video: In Tripoli, signs that Gadhafi stronghold is hurting (on this page)

Medvedev said he is sending envoy Mikhail Margelov to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi immediately to start negotiating, and that talks with the Libyan government could take place later. Margelov said earlier Friday that it's necessary to negotiate with all "reasonable" representatives of the government, including Gadhafi's sons.

In response, Libya's deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, said: "Russia is one of the traditional friends of Libya. ... We don't think that Russia will sway its position to side with NATO."

He would not say whether Gadhafi had been informed of Medvedev's proposal, but told reporters in Tripoli that the Libyan leader was constantly watching the news.

Image: Dmitry Medvedev, Naoto Kan
Alexander Zemlianichenko  /  AP
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan at the G8 summit in Deauville, France, on Friday.

South African President Jacob Zuma is also using his party's ties to Gadhafi to work out a peaceful outcome, heading to Libya on behalf of the African Union.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner called Russian, South African and U.N. mediation efforts with Gadhafi "constructive," but said they needed to make clear that the Libyan leader must leave power.

"I don't know if it's up to the international community, given what Gadhafi has done against his own people, to prepare him any kind of easy exit or some kind of golden parachute to leave Libya," Toner told reporters.

Asked what value the mediation might then hold, Toner said the efforts could be useful "to make him or his regime see clearly the writing on the wall."

"There's no way out," Toner added. "He's no longer the legitimate leader in the eyes of the international community, in the eyes of his own people. The sooner he accepts that and moves on, the better."

It's unclear what exactly Gadhafi — known as the Leader of the Revolution or Brother Leader in Libya — could step down from. He has no constitutional executive position, but wields power by force of his personality and presence, making it difficult to guarantee that he has given up power as long as he and his sons remain in the country.

The opposition wants Gadhafi exiled. Medvedev said he wouldn't offer Gadhafi refuge in Russia but said with a grin, "such countries could be found" that would be willing to take him in.

Russian officials have been critical of Gadhafi but also say NATO is using excessive force. Russia recently held talks with representatives of both Gadhafi's government and the rebels.

Russia often straddles the divide between the Western nations with which it shares a table in the G-8, and the Arab nations that Moscow nurtured during the Soviet era.

Moscow offered to negotiate with Saddam Hussein in Iraq in the 1990s, and is a member of the so-called Quartet negotiating for Mideast peace, alongside the United States, European Union and United Nations.

Over the past decade, the Kremlin sought to revive its influence in the Middle East and saw Gadhafi as one of its partners in the region. Libya struck multibillion dollar deals to procure Russian-made weapons, and Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom has big investments in Libya that have been threatened by Gadhafi's attacks on rebel forces.

Medvedev discussed the mediation offer with President Barack Obama at talks on the sidelines of the G-8.

"The Russians of course have long-standing relationships in Libya that frankly we don't have," U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Friday. "We are going to be in close touch with the Russians as they pursue their conversations with the Libyans."

A Libyan rebel spokesman, Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, said Russia's offer should have come sooner. "It's too late, and it's not a big deal," Ghoga, the vice chairman of the opposition National Transitional Council, told a rally in the eastern city of Benghazi.

But the timing may be propitious.

Libya's rebels have consolidated their position, and NATO pounded Tripoli with its heaviest strikes yet this week. Fuel and food shortages in the capital are starting to take a toll.

"The world does not see (Gadhafi) as the Libyan leader, and this is the position of not only the G-8 but also of all the African states that attended today's summit," Medvedev said.

A Moscow-based Middle East expert expressed doubt that Gadhafi will agree to step down after Benghazi-based opposition leaders rejected a cease-fire agreement proposed by the African Union in late March.

Gadhafi "will fight to the end with unpredictable consequences for everyone involved," Yevgeny Satanovsky, head of the Moscow-based Middle East Institute, told The Associated Press.

On Friday, rebel fighters clashed with government forces to the south and west of the insurgent-held city of Misrata. Dr. Mustafa Omar of Hikma hospital said five rebels were killed and 26 wounded. It was unclear if any government soldiers were killed.

While rebel fighters have pushed Gadhafi's troops to Misrata's outskirts, the city, Libya's third largest, has been under siege for months, receiving food and medical supplies only by sea.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, hosting the G-8 summit, said Friday there is "great unanimity" about an "intensification of the military intervention" to protect civilians.

He did not say how, but France and Britain said this week they are ready to deploy attack helicopters in the campaign.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters in Deauville that the deployment of helicopters was "part of the process of turning up the pressure" on Gadhafi. He said the campaign is entering a "new phase."

So far, the NATO campaign has relied largely on strike jets dropping munitions from an altitude of about 15,000 feet (4,600 meters). The helicopters, flying much lower and slower, could more accurately identify targets in densely populated areas while risking fewer civilian lives. But such flights would also expose the helicopter crews to greater risks.

Michelle Faul in Benghazi, Ryan Lucas in Misrata, Vladimir Isachenkov and Mansur Mirovalev in Moscow, Don Melvin in Brussels, and Jamey Keaten and Julie Pace in Deauville, and Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Libya's uprising against Gadhafi

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  1. People gathering in Benghazi, Libya in mid-February of 2011 as protest against the rule of Moammar Gadhafi grew, in part triggered by the arrest of human rights activist Fethi Tarbel. EDITOR'S NOTE: The content, date and location of this image could not be independently verified. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Buildings at the entrance to a security forces compound burn in Benghazi, Feb. 21, 2011. Libyan protesters celebrated in the streets of Benghazi, claiming control of the country's second largest city after bloody fighting, and anti-government unrest spread to the capital with clashes in Tripoli's main square for the first time. (Alaguri / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi speaks on state television. Feb. 22, and signalled his defiance over a mounting revolt against his 41-year rule. (Libya TV via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Libyan U.N. ambassador Shalgham is embraced by Dabbashi, Libya's deputy U.N. Ambassador after denouncing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for the first time during a Security Council meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York on Feb. 25. Shalgam, a longtime friend and member of Gadhafi's inner circle, had previously refused to denounce Gadhafi. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Thousands of Libyans gather for the Muslim Friday prayers outside the courthouse in the eastern city of Benghazi on Feb. 25, 2011. Perhaps 8,000 people gathered for the midday prayers with a local imam, who delivered his sermon alongside the coffins of three men killed in the violent uprising that routed Gadhafi loyalists from Benghazi. (Gianluigi Guercia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Rebels hold a young man at gunpoint, who they accuse of being a loyalist to Gadhafi, between the towns of Brega and Ras Lanuf, March 3, 2011. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Pro-Gadhafi soldiers and supporters gather in Green Square in Tripoli, March 6, 2011. Thousands of Moammar Gadhafi's supporters poured into the streets of Tripoli, waving flags and firing their guns in the air in the Libyan leader's main stronghold, claiming overnight military successes. (Ben Curtis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Rebel fighters jump away from shrapnel during heavy shelling by forces loyal to Gadhafi near Bin Jawad, March 6. Rebels in east Libya regrouped and advanced on Bin Jawad after Gadhafi forces ambushed rebel fighters and ejected them from the town earlier in the day. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Libyan rebel fighters take cover as a bomb dropped by an airforce fighter jet explodes near a checkpoint on the outskirts of the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 7, 2011. (Marco Longari / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Libyan rebels fire rockets at government troops on the frontline. March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf. The rebels pushed back government troops westward towards Ben Jawat. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Libyan government soldiers aboard tanks at the west gate of the town Ajdabiyah March 16, 2011. Libya's army pounded an opposition-held city in the country's west and battled fighters trying to block its advance on a rebel bastion in the east amid flagging diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed. EDITOR'S NOTE: Picture taken on a government guided tour. (Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Libyan people in Benghazi celebrate after the United Nations Security Council authorized a no-fly zone over Libya, March 18. Thousands of Libyans erupted in cheers as the news flashed on a giant screen in besieged Benghazi late March 17. After weeks of discussion, the UN Security Council banned flights in Libya's airspace and authorized "all necessary means" to implement the ban, triggering intervention by individual countries and organizations like NATO. (EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A picture combo shows a Libyan jet bomber crashing after being apparently shot down in Benghazi on March 19, 2011 as the Libyan rebel stronghold came under attack. Air strikes and sustained shelling of the city's south sent thick smoke into the sky. (Patrick Baz / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Residents of Benghazi flee the city along the road toward Tobruk, in an attempt to escape fighting in their city, March 19, 2011. Gaddafi's troops pushed into the outskirts of Benghazi, a city of 670,000 people, in an apparent attempt to pre-empt Western military intervention expected after a meeting of Western and Arab leaders in Paris. (Reuters TV) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Gadhafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A rebel fighter carries his weapon outside the northeastern Libyan town of Ajdabiyah, March 21, 2011. A wave of air strikes hit Gaddafi's troops around Ajdabiyah, a strategic town in the barren, scrub of eastern Libya that rebels aim to retake and where their fighters said they need more help. (Finbarr O'reilly / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A Libyan rebel prays next to his gun on the frontline of the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, south of Benghazi, March 21, 2011. The international military intervention in Libya is likely to last "a while," a top French official said, echoing Moammar Gadhafi's warning of a long war ahead as rebels, energized by the strikes on their opponents. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Libyan rebels retreat as mortars from Gadhafi's forces are fired on them near the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, March 22, 2011. Coalition forces bombarded Libya for a third straight night, targeting the air defenses and forces of Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi, stopping his advances and handing some momentum back to the rebels, who were on the verge of defeat. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A Libyan man is comforted by hospital staff as he reacts after identifying his killed brother in the morgue of the Jalaa hospital in Benghazi, March 22, 2011. His brother was killed earlier in fighting around the city of Ajdabiya. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Volunteer fighters training at a rebel army training camp in Benghazi, March 29, 2011. Pro-government forces intensified their attacks on Libyan rebels, driving them back over ground they had taken in recent days. The rebels had reached Nawfaliya, but pulled back to Bin Jawad. (Manu Brabo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Smoke billows as seven explosions were reported in the tightly-guarded residence of leader Moammar Gadhafi and military targets in the suburb of Tajura. Two explosions also rocked the Libyan capital Tripoli on March 29, 2011, as NATO-led coalition aircraft had been seen in the skies over the capital. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A Libyan rebel urges people to leave, as shelling from Gadhafi's forces started landing on the frontline outside of Bin Jawaad, 93 miles east of Sirte, March 29, 2011. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. General Abdel-Fattah Younis, former interior minister in the Gadhafi regime who defected in the early days of the uprising, is greeted by Libyan rebels at the front line near Brega, April 1, 2011. (Altaf Qadri / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Libyan men show the V-sign for victory as they stand on the deck of a Turkish ship arriving from Misrata to the port of Benghazi who were evacuated along with others the injured in the fighting between rebel and Gadhafi forces, April 03, 2011. The Turkish vessel took hundreds of people wounded in the Libyan uprising for treatment in Turkey from the two cities of Misrata and Benghazi. (Mahmud Hams / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A wounded prisoner from Gadhafi's forces is transported in the back of a pickup truck by rebels, on the way to a hospital for treatment, half way between Brega and Ajdabiya, April 9, 2011. Rebels say they took two prisoners after a clash with soldiers near Brega's university outside the government-controlled oil facilities, marking a noticeable advance by rebels. (Ben Curtis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. In this image taken from TV, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi makes a pubic appearance in Tripoli, April 14 2011. Gadhafi defiantly waved at his supporters while being driven around Tripoli while standing up through the sunroof of a car. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. A rebel fighter celebrates as his comrades fire a rocket barrage toward the positions of government troops April 14, 2011, west of Ajdabiyah. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Gadhafi supporters hold copies of his portrait as they gather at the Bab Al Azizia compound in Tripoli, April 15, 2011. Rebels held much of eastern Libya by mid-April, while Gadhafi controlled the west, with the front line shifting back and forth in the middle. (Pier Paolo Cito / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Doctors work on a baby who suffered cuts from shrapnel that blasted through the window of his home during fighting in the besieged city of Misrata, April 18, 2011. Thousands of civilians are trapped in Misrata as fighting continues between Libyan government forces that have surrounded the city and anti-government rebels there. The Libyan government has come under international criticism for using heavy weapons and artillery in its assault on Misrata. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. MISRATA, LIBYA - APRIL 20: Libyan rebel fighters discuss how to dislodge some ensconced government loyalist troops who were firing on them from the next room during house-to-house fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata April 20, 2011 in Misrata, Libya. Rebel forces assaulted the downtown positions of troops loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi April 20, briefly forcing them back over a key bridge and trapping several in a building that fought back instead of surrendering, firing on the rebels in the building and seriously wounding two of them during the standoff. Fighting continues between Libyan government forces that have surrounded the city and anti-government rebels ensconced there. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images) (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Libyan rebel fighters carry out a comrade wounded during an effort to dislodge some ensconced government loyalist troops who were firing on them from a building during house-to-house fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata April 20, 2011. Rebel forces assaulted the downtown positions of troops loyal to Gaddafi, briefly forcing them back over a key bridge and trapping several in a building where they fought back instead of surrendering. Two rebels were seriously wounded during the standoff. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Rebels tread carefully as they prepare to invade a house where soldiers from the pro-government forces had their base in the Zwabi area of Misrata on April 24, 2011. (Andre Liohn / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Libyans inspect damage and an unexploded missile at the Gadhafi family compound in a residential area of Tripoli, May 1, 2011. Gadhafi escaped a NATO missile strike in Tripoli that killed one of his sons and three young grandchildren. EDITOR'S NOTE: Photo taken on a government guided tour. (Darko Bandic / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Moammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, center, leaves the funeral of his brother Saif Al-Arab Gadhafi, who was killed during air strikes by coalition forces, at the El Hani cemetery in Tripoli, May 2, 2011. Crowds chanting Gadhafi's name gathered in Tripoli for the funeral of his son and three grandchildren. (Louafi Larbi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Fleeing migrants and Libyans are seen on board an International Organization of Migration ship leaving the port of Misrata on May 4, 2011, as Gadhafi forces continued to pound the city. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Libyan men watch as the main fuel depot in Libya's third largest city, Misrata, burns following a bombing by Gadhafi's forces on May 7, 2011. Libyan regime forces shelled fuel depots in Misrata and dropped mines into its harbor using helicopters bearing the Red Cross emblem, rebels said as they braced for a ground assault. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Libyan rebels celebrate near the airport of Misrata on May 11, 2011 after capturing the city's strategic airport following a fierce battle with Moammar Gadhafi's troops -- their first significant advance in weeks. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Women react after a protest against Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Benghazi, Libya, on May 16, 2011. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, announced that he would seek arrest warrants against the leader of Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the country's intelligence chief on charges of crimes against humanity. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Tripoli street in Misrata is seen from the terrace of a building used by Gadhafi’s snipers before the rebels took control of the area on May 22, 2011. The weeks-long siege of the city ended in mid-May and Tripoli Street was the site of the fiercest fighting in the battle and a turnin point in the war. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. A rebel fighter gives water to a soldier loyal to Gadhafi after he was wounded and then captured near the front line, west of Misrata on May 23, 2011. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. An uncle, left, prays over the body of one and a half year-old Mohsen Ali al-Sheikh during a washing ritual during the funeral at his family's house in Misrata, May 27, 2011. The child was killed by a gunshot during clashes between rebels and pro-Gadhafi forces earlier in the day. (Wissam Saleh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. The body of a drowned refugee floats near a capsized ship which was transporting an estimated 850 refugees from Libya, approximately 22 miles north of the Tunisian islands of Kerkennah, June 4, 2011. At least 578 survived the sinking. (Lindsay Mackenzie / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. A photograph taken from a video by a National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter shows Mutassem Gadhafi, son of Moammar Gadhafi, drinking water and smoking a cigarette following his capture and shortly before his death, in Sirte, Oct. 20, 2011. (- / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. A photograph taken from mobile phone video of a National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter shows the capture of Moammar Gadhafi in Sirte on Oct. 20, 2011. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. This image provided by the Libyan Youth Group on Nov. 19, 2011, shows Seif al-Islam Gadhafi after he was captured near the Niger border with Libya. Moammar Gadhafi's son, the only wanted member of the ousted ruling family to remain at large, was captured as he traveled with aides in a convoy in Libya's southern desert. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: A photo said to show people gathering during recent days' unrest in Benghazi, Libya. The content, date and location of the image could not be independently verified.
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    Above: Slideshow (81) Conflict in Libya
  2. Cam Cardow / Ottawa Citizen, Politicalcartoons.com
    Slideshow (10) Gadhafi's Gotta Go!

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