Qaddafi May ‘Blow Up’ Tripoli, Russian Envoy Tells Izvestiya

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi may “blow up” the capital Tripoli if rebels seize the city, Mikhail Margelov, Russia’s envoy for negotiating Qaddafi’s departure, told the Izvestiya newspaper.

Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi told Margelov the regime is ready to implement a “suicidal plan” if insurgents overrun Tripoli, the envoy said in an interview with the Moscow-based newspaper. “Qaddafi has plenty of missiles and explosives.” His comments were confirmed by his spokeswoman, Varvara Paal.

Margelov flew to Libya last month for talks with rebels and government officials, including the prime minister, saying Mahmudi and his Cabinet hold the “real levers of power.” He didn’t meet with Qaddafi himself. President Dmitry Medvedev said May 27 that Qaddafi had forfeited his right to govern and that Russia was using its contacts with the regime to persuade him to step down.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization started military strikes against government forces in late March to aid rebels seeking to topple the regime. Qaddafi said last week his regime won’t fall and threatened to retaliate against Europe for its involvement in attempts to overthrow him.

Beyond UN Mandate

Russia, which abstained from the United Nations Security Council vote in March that backed the NATO-led campaign in Libya, has repeatedly criticized the alliance for going beyond its UN mandate.

Qaddafi’s forces have a “more than sufficient” arsenal of ground-to-ground rockets which they haven’t yet used, “giving reason to doubt that the regime is running out of weapons,” Margelov said. Even so, the military may lack ammunition for tanks and small-arms cartridges, he said.

Turkey is hosting a meeting of the 22-nation Libya Contact Group tomorrow to discuss the future of the North African nation without Qaddafi. The rebels have demanded that Qaddafi cede power before they halt attacks on government troops, while the regime has said a cease-fire must precede any political negotiations.

“The situation can be solved without the colonel,” Margelov said. “The pragmatic part of the regime” must be engaged to ease a transition.

Libya’s government and rebels are considering a UN proposal to have their representatives form a panel to manage a political transition in the North African nation, Abdul al-Khatib, the Jordanian senator who is trying to negotiate an end to the hostilities, said July 11.

France has had indirect contact with the Qaddafi regime on negotiating a settlement. Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, has said that the government was in talks with France.

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