(Updates with attack on Misrata in 10th paragraph. See EXTRA and MET for more on the regional unrest.)
June 10 (Bloomberg) -- A son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, Saif al-Islam, has approached rebels in recent days to negotiate an exit from power for his father, an aide to National Transitional Council leader Mahmoud Jebril said.
“Of course, he is trying to put some terms. We understand those terms and we know how to play the negotiations,” Mohamed Al Akari told Bloomberg Television yesterday in Abu Dhabi, where foreign ministers from the 22-nation Libya Contact Group met. “We are talking now of the last stage of this operation.”
Qaddafi won’t be allowed to remain in Libya even though he is “dreaming of staying in the country,” Al Akari said.
South Africa and Senegal are among the countries that might offer him a safe haven, he added. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said Qaddafi had sent out many “feelers” to negotiate an end to the conflict.
The insurgency against Qaddafi’s four-decade rule began in February. Forces under the command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are fighting an air campaign in support of the rebels that intensified on June 7 with attacks on Qaddafi’s compound in the capital, Tripoli.
Libya’s OPEC Impact
The rebellion has cut oil production in the North African country by almost 90 percent, according to Bloomberg estimates. OPEC’s quota system has been weakened by the need to replace Libya’s lost oil, the secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Abdalla el-Badri, said after the group’s meeting in Vienna June 8.
Qaddafi requested refuge in a village in Libya, which isn’t possible, Al Akari said, partly because rebels can’t afford the security to prevent him from being assassinated. Qaddafi has previously said he would rather die in Libya than leave.
Russia’s envoy for the Libyan conflict, Mikhail Margelov, told reporters in Moscow today that “all scenarios” are still possible for Qaddafi’s future. Margelov said he’ll go to Tripoli soon for talks with government representatives and will meet the Libyan leader if Russian President Dmitry Medvedev wants him to.
“The window is still open” to resolve the conflict and end the fighting, said Margelov, who has just returned from talks with rebels in the eastern port city of Benghazi, which they have declared as their capital.
Pro-Qaddafi forces today launched their third infantry assault in five days on the rebel-held western city of Misrata. The attack came hours after NATO confirmed it used British Apache helicopters to strike army and communications targets near Misrata overnight. The alliance operation followed a request yesterday for the Apaches from rebel commanders.
“There have been obviously multiple feelers from the Qaddafi regime to various members of the international community coming every other day,” Rudd told reporters after the Abu Dhabi meeting. “In our view collectively, this represents growing desperation on the part of the regime as we believe it enters its end period.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “there have been numerous and continuing discussions by the people close to Qaddafi and we are aware that those discussions include among other matters the potential for transition.” Even so, “there is not any clear way forward yet,” she said.
Before the Abu Dhabi talks started, Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez told reporters that “finding a place for him is now the critical issue, since everyone has agreed he has to go.” She said Turkey and South Africa are involved in working on a solution.
Uganda said on March 30 it would consider a request for asylum for Qaddafi, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez still calls him a “friend.” Qaddafi may also find refuge in about a dozen African states, such as Zimbabwe, where he has investments and protection from prosecution for war crimes.
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade arrived yesterday in Benghazi. He intends to encourage negotiations during his trip, Wade’s spokesman, Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye, said by phone June 8.
Wade appealed yesterday to Qaddafi to step down, a U.S. official said. Wade’s special adviser, Papa Dieng, declined to comment when contacted by telephone in Dakar, Senegal.
Separately yesterday, the Libya Contact Group established a mechanism through which countries can support the rebel council, the United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, told reporters.
“We are all working” to put the National Transitional Council “on firmer financial footing,” Clinton said. The U.S. supports the idea that to help the rebel council secure credit, a future Libyan government should honor any financial obligations the council assumes on behalf of the Libyan people.
Bankrolling the Rebels
“Already, Kuwait announced it will transfer about $180 million, and Qatar will transfer $100 million through this mechanism,” she said.
The U.S. will continue to provide non-lethal supplies and work to “deepen all our relationships,” she said. She also announced “$26.5 million of new funds to help all victims of this conflict, bringing the American total to nearly $81 million.”
The international community has begun planning for what NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen described on June 8 as a “long and complex” transition to democracy in Libya.
Abdurrahman Shalgham, Libya’s former foreign minister and representative to the United Nations, told reporters in Abu Dhabi that rebel troops will reach Tripoli within “some weeks” and that Qaddafi has “very few days” left in power.
In Washington, Leon Panetta, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Robert Gates as secretary of defense, said it is important to be successful in pushing Qaddafi from power.
“If Qaddafi stays, I think it sends a terrible signal to these other countries,” Panetta said yesterday during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, referring to the Arab nations facing popular uprisings to demand reform.
--With assistance Drew Hinshaw in Dakar, Senegal; Chris Stephen in Misrata; Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow and Mark Shenk in New York. Editors: Terry Atlas, Leslie Hoffecker, Karl Maier, Eddie Buckle, Heather Langan
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