Trial, not exile, for Kadhafi, rebels demand

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An international meeting Tuesday on the Libya conflict should decide to put Moamer Kadhafi on trial for crimes against humanity and not offer him exile, a spokesman for Libya's rebel government said.

"He must be charged for crimes against the Libyan people," Shamsiddin Abdulmolah told AFP. "This is non-negotiable."

The head of the rebel's "emergency relief committee", Mahmud Jibril, was attending the meeting in London to set out the positions of the Transitional National Council (TNC), Abdulmolah said.

The London conference was bringing together representatives of more than 35 countries, including seven Arab states.

It was being held as Libya's rebels were facing tough resistance from the regime's forces around 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Kadhafi's hometown of Sirte.

The fighting stalled a fast-moving push westwards by the rebels, who on the weekend drove out from their eastern stronghold of Benghazi to seize vast swathes of eastern Libya in the wake of coalition airstrikes that have decimated Kadhafi's heavy weaponry.

Abdulmolah said the NTC was preparing an official statement on its views of what the London conference should achieve, and that would be communicated shortly.

But he stressed the rebels would not permit any compromise on two points: the prosecution of Kadhafi, his sons and his aides; and the resolve that Libya should be a united, sovereign state with Tripoli as its capital -- and not a country divided between a pro-Kadhafi west and a pro-rebel east.

Britain was seeking to have Kadhafi brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC), though British Foreign Secretary William Hague did not rule out exile for Kadhafi as an option.

Spain also raised exile as a possibility, given that no ICC charges had yet been laid against Kadhafi. The Libyan leader, though, was being investigated for his orders to bloodily repress the opposition to his 41-year rule that sprang up February 15.

France and Qatar have already recognised the NTC as the sole legitimate representative body for all Libyans.

Abdulmolah said he expected other countries -- especially Arab ones -- to follow suit. "The Arab League has taken the position of receiving National Transitional Council representatives," he noted.

On Tuesday, the United States announced it was sending a US diplomat, Chris Stevens, to Benghazi "quite soon" to liaise with the rebels -- but to not as yet offer official recognition.

US President Barack Obama on Monday made it clear he wanted Kadhafi gone, but said trying to do so militarily could "splinter" the coalition attacking Kadhafi's forces from the air.

Meanwhile, in Ajdabiya, a city 160 kilometres south of Benghazi that was hard-fought over last week before coalition warplanes sent Kadhafi troops fleeing Saturday, a fuel shortage was complicating a slow return to some sort of normality, an AFP photographer saw.

Long lines of cars converged on the one or two service stations still supplying petrol (US: gasoline). Most shops remained closed, with just small vendors open for basic staples for a population who had gone without food for days as the battle raged.

People were also going to the city's hospital to scan a wall of lists of names, looking for relatives and neighbours who had died or been wounded during the fighting.

The NTC's main spokesman, Abdul Hafiz Ghoqa, on Monday told reporters that the rebels did not yet have a death and casualty toll from the fighting in Libya, but that one would be released in the next few days.

He also urged Kadhafi supporters to abandon the Libyan leader. "If they do so, we will forgive their wrongdoings," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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