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Qaddafi Diplomacy Rebuffed as Europeans Back Rebel Demands

Muammar Qaddafi’s diplomatic outreach failed to win backing from European leaders, as Italy rejected a reported cease-fire proposal and recognized the rebels’ interim council as the nation’s legitimate government.

In Libya, rebels pushed back regime loyalists to gain control of most of the oil port at Brega, according to al- Jazeera television. U.S. and NATO warplanes continued to destroy regime targets, such as military vehicles near Brega hit by a U.S. ground-attack jet, according to a Pentagon statement.

The Libyan government is calling for an “international dialogue” to resolve the conflict, and offering elections and political reforms, spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said at a Tripoli press conference broadcast on Sky News. The possible solutions wouldn’t include Qaddafi stepping down now, he said. Qaddafi’s future must be decided by the Libyan people since he has “symbolic significance” for the nation, Ibrahim said.

The increase in diplomatic efforts come as the U.S. and its NATO allies seek to avoid a stalemate that might draw them further into the six-week-old war. Rebel forces have been struggling for more than a month to take and hold cities in the center of the country. Opposition leaders and Western governments have stated that Qaddafi must go as part of any solution.

Oil dropped from the highest since September 2008. Crude for May delivery fell as much as 45 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $108.02 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and was at $108.09 at 1:02 p.m. Singapore time.

Cease-Fire Proposal

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini yesterday dismissed the reported cease-fire proposal by the Libyan leader, who sent an envoy to Greece and Turkey for talks.

“These proposals are not credible,” Frattini said at a news conference in Rome with Ali al-Isawi, foreign affairs coordinator of the rebels’ governing group, the Interim Transitional National Council. Frattini said past truces declared by the regime were “systematically violated.”

Italy’s formal recognition of the rebels yesterday follows that of France and Qatar. The U.S. and the U.K. have yet to establish diplomatic ties.

Libyan rebels plan to export crude oil for the first time from a port near Tobruk in eastern Libya. The tanker Equator, able to load 1 million barrels of oil, is due today at the Marsa al Hariga terminal, according to AISLive Ltd. ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. The rebels’ national council said April 1 that it had reached a deal to have Qatar help market Libyan oil, with proceeds going for food, fuel, medicine and other uses.

No ‘Game-Changer’

“That’s certainly news that should calm oil markets a bit,” said Hannes Loacker, an analyst with Raiffeisen Bank AG in Vienna. “However, the supply volumes won’t be a game- changer.”

Elsewhere in the region, Yemeni police clashed with anti- government protesters in the southwestern city of Taiz, leaving at least 15 demonstrators dead and hundreds injured, Sadek al- Shujaa, chief of a local clinic, said in a telephone interview. The U.S. wants President Ali Abdullah Saleh to end the “appalling violence” and to reach a deal “as soon as possible” with the opposition, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington. Yemen’s opposition coalition called for international intervention to stop the bloodshed.

Latest Attempt

The Greek government said that a visit by Qaddafi’s acting foreign minister, Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou was the latest attempt by the Libyan leader to resolve the crisis through a settlement. Late yesterday, Al- Obeidi met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who made no comments afterwards.

At least two sons of Qaddafi are proposing a plan to move the Libyan leader out of power and oversee a democratic transition under his son, Saif al-Islam, the New York Times reported, citing an unidentified diplomat and Libyan official. It wasn’t clear whether the elder Qaddafi would support such a plan.

Replacing Qaddafi with one of his sons “is not acceptable,” the opposition’s al-Isawi said at the news briefing with Frattini.

Civilians at Risk

Fighting continued in the rebel-held western city of Misrata, with water and power cut off and food in short supply. Regime tanks began shelling an area of the city’s port about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the city center at about 9 a.m. local time, a Misrata resident, who identified himself as Touka, said by telephone.

“There is shelling and use of rocket-propelled grenade launchers and fighting taking place in the eastern part,” Reda Almountasser, another Misrata resident, said in a phone interview from the city.

The U.S. began to carry out a pledge by President Barack Obama to hand over most military missions to NATO and its allies, such as Qatar. The U.S. will keep attack aircraft on standby and resume flights if necessary, while U.S. command and control aircraft and navy ships remain in action.

To contact the reporters on this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson in Rome at fjackson@bloomberg.net; Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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