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Gadhafi son vows fight to the death

A man claiming to be Moammar Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam vowed to fight to the death and said nobody will surrender. He  insisted his father is fine.
/ Source: msnbc.com news services

A man claiming to be Moammar Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam vowed Wedneday to fight to the death and said nobody will surrender. He also said he was speaking from the suburbs outside Tripoli and insisted his father is fine.

"We must wage a campaign of attrition day and night until these lands are cleansed from these gangs and traitors," he said in a statement broadcast on the Syrian-owned Arrai satellite TV channel. "We assure people that we are standing fast and the commander is in good condition."

The broadcast came shortly after another statement by his brother, al-Saadi. Al-Saadi offered a softer tone, saying he's ready to mediate talks with the rebels in order to stop the bloodshed.

Al-Saadi said he had contacted a commander of the Libyan National Transitional Council in Tripoli with authorization from his father as part of efforts to stop the bloodshed in Libya, Al-Arabiya TV reported.

"We were talking about negotiations based on ending bloodshed,'' al-Saadi Gadhafi said referring to his telephone call with Abdel Hakim Belhadj, the chief of anti-Gadhafi forces in Tripoli, adding he was officially empowered to negotiate with the NTC.

"We acknowledge that they (the NTC) represent a legal party, but we are also the government and a legal negotiating party,'' he said.

The rebels, meanwhile, were pooling tips about Gadhafi's whereabouts from captured regime fighters and others, and believe he is most likely no longer in Tripoli, said Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the rebels' military chief in the capital.

Rebel forces have been advancing toward three regime strongholds: the town of Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown, as well as the towns of Bani Walid and Sabha, the latter hundreds of miles south of the capital of Tripoli.

Rebel forces arrested Gadhafi's foreign minister, Abdelati Obeidi, at his farm in Janzour, a suburb west of Tripoli, a Reuters correspondent reported.

Earlier Wednesday, Libyans delighted at Gadhafi's downfall celebrated the end of Ramadan feast, even though the ousted leader remains on the run and forces loyal to him are defying an ultimatum set by Libya's interim council.

Streaming before dawn, worshippers packed Tripoli's Martyrs' Square — the renamed Gadhafi-era Green Square — chanting "Allahu Akbar (God is greatest), Libya is free."

Fighters on rooftops guarded against any attack by Gadhafi loyalists and sniffer dogs checked cars. Even the interim interior minister, Ahmed Darat, was searched.

In festive mood, parents took photos of their children wearing new clothes for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that follows the Muslim Ramadan fasting month. Some waved flags of the Libyan monarchy that Gadhafi overthrew in a military coup 42 years ago.

"This is the most beautiful Eid and most beautiful day in 42 years," said Hatem Gureish, 31, a merchant from Tripoli. "Gadhafi made us hate our lives ... We come here to express our joy at the end of 42 years of repression and deprivation."

Secret files
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera English reported that files uncovered in Gadhafi’s intelligence headquarters suggest that a former official under President George W. Bush may have been trying to help Gadhafi weather the revolution.

Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal wrote that he visited the compound that houses Libya’s now-vacated intelligence headquarters and smuggled out some documents he came across.

Among them were what appeared to be minutes of an Aug. 2 meeting between David Welch, the former assistant secretary of state Bush, and two senior Libyan officials, Abubakr Alzleitny and Mohammed Ahmed Ismail, at a hotel in Cairo, according to Al-Jazeera.

Welch now works for Bechtel, a multinational American company with billion-dollar construction deals across the Middle East, Al Jazeera reported.

The document indicates that during the meeting, Welch advised Gadhafi's team on how to undermine Libya’s rebel movement and win the propaganda war, according to Al Jazeera.

"Any information related to al-Qaida or other terrorist extremist organizations should be found and given to the American administration but only via the intelligence agencies of either Israel, Egypt, Morocco, or Jordan… America will listen to them… It's better to receive this information as if it originated from those countries..." the document says, according to Al Jazeera.

The document also indicates that Welch advised Gadhafi's government to take advantage of the unrest in Syria: "The importance of taking advantage of the Syrian situation particularly regarding the double-standard policy adopted by Washington… the Syrians were never your friends and you would lose nothing from exploiting the situation there in order to embarrass the West."

According to the document, Welch promised to “convey everything to the American administration, the congress and other influential figures."

Al Jazeera said representatives of Welch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

'It's as if I own the world'
Back on the streets of Tripoli, Fatima Mustafa, 28, a pregnant woman wearing a black chador, said: "This is a day of freedom, a day I cannot describe to you. It's as if I own the world. I'm glad I haven't given birth yet so my daughter can be born into a free Libya."

But the war is not over yet, with Gadhafi on the run and his loyalists defying an ultimatum set by Libya's National Transitional Council to surrender by Saturday or face attack.

The NTC has laid out a plan that will lead to democratic elections, monitored by the United Nations, within 18 months.

It will start with a "declaration of liberation," though NTC chairman Abdel Mustafa Jalil told reporters that the conditions for making such a declaration included Gadhafi's capture or death.

The general provisions of a "Constitutional Declaration" that has been made include:

  • Libya is a democratic, independent state with Tripoli its capital, Islam its religion, sharia, Islamic law as the main source of legislation and Arabic as its official language. The rights of minority groups and all sections of society are guaranteed.
  • The state will establish a democratic political system based on political and party pluralism aiming for a peaceful, democratic transition of power.
  • All Libyans are equal before the law and are not discriminated against because of religion, faith, language, wealth, gender, ancestry, political views, social status or tribal, group or family affiliation.
  • The state guarantees freedom of opinion and expression, as well as freedom of the press and peaceful protests.
  • The state guarantees the right to form political parties, societies and civil society organizations. The formation of secret or armed societies, or societies that do not comply with public order shall not be permitted.

"Our goal is to implement justice for everybody, including Gadhafi loyalists," Darat, the interior minister, said.

During the interim period, the NTC, made up of representatives of local councils who are chosen to reflect population density, will be the highest authority, the Constitutional Declaration says.

Path to elections

After "declaring liberation", the NTC will move to its headquarters in Tripoli and form a transitional government within 30 days.

Within 90 days of declaring liberation, the NTC will issue legislation for the election of a Public National Conference.

Under the plan, the PNC will be elected within 240 days of the declaration of liberation and the NTC will be dissolved at the first meeting of the PNC.

A prime minister will then be appointed and the premier will nominate his government. The PNC will then approve a draft constitution and will put that to a referendum within 30 days.

If it is approved by a two-thirds majority, it will be ratified by the PNC. If it is rejected, it will be redrafted and another referendum will be held.

General elections will then be held "under the supervision of the national judiciary and to be monitored by the U.N. as well as international and regional organizations," according to the plan.

The newly elected legislature will then convene within 30 days. At its first meeting, the PNC will be dissolved and the new legislature will assume its duties.

"They (the NTC) are very seriously interested in assistance with policing to get the public security situation under control and gradually develop a democratically accountable public security force," Ian Martin, special U.N. envoy for post-conflict planning in Libya, said at the United Nations in New York.

"We don't now expect military observers to be requested," he said. "It's very clear that the Libyans want to avoid any kind of military deployment of the U.N. or others."

Uneasy truce with Gadhafi loyalists
However, the prospect of a peaceful, democratic Libya in 2012 or 2013 seemed a distant one Tuesday, as NATO planes bombed Gadhafi forces in his home town of Sirte and hit targets in the Bani Walid area, another Gadhafi stronghold 100 miles southeast of Tripoli.

Fighters pushing from east and west toward Sirte have paused, observing an effective truce. Anti-Gadhafi fighters have advanced to within 20 miles of Bani Walid.

European Union sanctions against six Libyan ports, four oil companies and more than a dozen other entities could be lifted as soon as Friday, EU diplomats in Brussels said.

The EU's 27 governments reached a preliminary agreement on Wednesday to ease the restrictions on 28 Libyan entities and a final agreement was expected Thursday, diplomats said.

"The decision is to enter into force Friday," one EU diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In Martyrs' Square, people were mostly ebullient about the future, despite the loss of life and shortages of fuel, power and water.

"We mourn the dead. Thank God we got rid of the despot after 42 years," said Hatem Saleh, in his 20s. "We thank God we're liberated now, we're free. The tyrant is out, no more killing."

But some were fearful.

Nouri Hussein, 42, an engineer, said he was glad Gadhafi was gone, but feared the guns in the hands of unruly fighters.

"There is apprehension about what next. The rebels should not be blinded with the ecstasy of victory," he said.

Gadhafi son to surrender?
The commander, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, said al-Saadi first called him Tuesday and asked whether his safety could be guaranteed. "We told him 'Don't fear for your life. We will guarantee your rights as a human being, and will deal with you humanely,' said Belhaj, confirming a report on Al-Jazeera television. Belhaj added that al-Saadi would be turned over to Libyan legal authorities after his surrender.

If the offer is confirmed — the rebels have previously claimed to have captured Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam, who later turned up free — the surrender would give the rebels a significant boost as they try to consolidate their hold over the country with the longtime dictator and several sons and aides still at large.

Belhaj said Al-Saadi told him he had not killed anyone, and that "he was not against the people."

"I told him 'This is good. What is important for us is not to shed Libyan blood. For the members of the regime to surrender is the best way to do this,'" said Belhaj.

The commander said al-Saadi had called back Wednesday morning, but that he had missed the call. He said he knows al-Saadi's whereabouts, but prefers to negotiate a surrender. He gave no further details.

Reuters, msbc.com staff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.