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Libyan Rebels Reverse Position on African Union Peace Plan

Libya’s opposition leaders appeared to reverse position on a plan for peace talks after African Union countries said they wouldn’t honor an international warrant for the arrest of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

In an interview on Al Jazeera television, Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice president of the Libyan National Transition Council, said the council has decided to reject the plan.

“It doesn’t include the departure of Qaddafi from power,” Ghoga said in the interview, which was broadcast on the network early today. Ghoga denied reports that the plan had earlier been welcomed by the council.

During its meeting in Equatorial Guinea, the African Union called on member states to disregard a warrant for Qaddafi’s arrest that was issued by the International Criminal Court, the Associated Press reported yesterday.

The Libyan government welcomes the AU’s offer of negotiations to end the conflict, Al Jazeera cited Moussa Ibrahim, a spokesman, as saying today. There are no plans for Qaddafi to leave the country, he said.

“We need to keep him safe to lead us through this difficult time,” Al Jazeera cited him as saying.

The 53-member African Union announced a plan on July 1 for a cease-fire between Libya’s warring parties, coupled with negotiations in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to forge a transitional administration and outline a plan for new elections. The proposal excludes Qaddafi from the talks.

“Not being part of the negotiations means that he’s not going to be part of the future of Libya,” Mansour Sayf Al-Nasr, the NTC’s representative to France, told reporters in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

NATO Support

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has supported Libya’s rebels since March by bombing Qaddafi’s forces, who it said were targeting the North African nation’s civilian population. Tens of thousands of refugees have fled the fighting, and the price of crude oil soared because of the conflict in the country with Africa’s biggest oil reserves.

The AU proposal, which came at the end of a two-day summit in Malabo, also called for international peacekeepers to monitor the cease-fire and asked the United Nations Security Council to lift a freeze on Libyan assets.

Slamming the ICC warrants as discriminatory against Africans, AU members agreed not to enforce them and demanded the Security Council annul them. An amnesty law should also be part of the Libyan transition, they said.

The TNC, whose representatives were granted access to the AU conference, will need to assess under what conditions they can start pulling their fighters back, Al-Nasr said.

“Surely we won’t have a cease-fire before certain conditions are met,” he said.

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