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Kadhafi not prepared to leave Libya: S. African presidency

Moamer Kadhafi will not leave Libya despite growing international pressure and intensified strikes on his regime, the South African presidency said Tuesday after mediation talks in Tripoli.

President Jacob Zuma held “lengthy discussions” with Kadhafi on Monday but failed to close the gap between the Libyan leader and rebels on a peace plan proposed by the African Union (AU).

“Colonel Kadhafi called for an end to the bombings to enable a Libyan dialogue. He emphasised that he was not prepared to leave his country, despite the difficulties,” Zuma’s office said in a statement.

“He expressed his anger at the NATO bombings, which have claimed the lives of his son and grandchildren and continue to cause a destruction of property and disruption of life.”

Zuma, who is heading the AU mediation process in Libya, met Kadhafi at his home on Monday and also went on a tour to see “the destruction caused by the bombings and the deepening humanitarian crisis,” the statement said.

It added that the Libyan leader’s personal safety “is of concern”.

South Africa wants an immediate ceasefire, and Zuma called for NATO to “respect the AU’s role in searching for a solution in the matter.”

“Nothing other than a dialogue among all parties in Libya can bring about a lasting solution,” he said.

But NATO pounded Tripoli with fresh air strikes just hours after his visit.

Zuma, who has at times faced criticism for being too soft on Kadhafi, was not listening only to the strongman’s side of the story, South African foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said Tuesday.

The president had met with a rebel delegation in Pretoria before heading to Tripoli, she told journalists in Cape Town.

“They had sent delegates here in South Africa and met with President Zuma in Pretoria before he departed for Libya.”

The rebels have rejected the AU peace proposal, which calls for a ceasefire and political reforms but falls short of their demand for Kadhafi to leave power.

South Africa has consistently slammed the air strikes against Kadhafi’s regime despite voting for the United Nations’ no-fly zone resolution that led to the NATO campaign.

But it has simultaneously condemned attacks on civilians as a “heinous violation of human rights against (Kadhafi’s) own people.”

Nkoana-Mashabane told parliament Tuesday that South Africa had voted for the no-fly zone resolution to stop attacks against civilians by Kadhafi’s forces.

“South Africa did not vote for regime change. By the time we voted on this resolution, more than 2,000 people were mowed down by their own government that was supposed to protect them.”

South Africa was once tipped as a possible exile destination for Kadhafi, but Pretoria has said no offer was ever extended.

That possibility is now more remote after the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague sought an arrest warrant for Kadhafi on charges of crimes against humanity, accusing him of having ordered his forces to gun down civilians in their homes, at funerals and outside mosques.

If the warrant is issued by the court’s judges, South Africa’s treaty obligations would require Kadhafi’s arrest if he were to enter the country.

The South African newspaper The Times reported Tuesday that Libyan officials have struck an agreement with local law firm Langa Attorneys to provide legal advice and services to Kadhafi and other top leaders.

“The deal will include defending the Libyan government officials in the event that they are hauled before the International Criminal Court on charges of human rights abuses,” a source told the newspaper.