A leading member of Libya's ruling establishment appealed to rebel leaders for dialogue on Monday, in the clearest sign yet Muammar Gaddafi may be ready to compromise with opponents challenging his rule.
Jadallah Azous Al-Talhi, a Libyan prime minister in the 1980s who is originally from eastern Libya, appeared on state television reading an address to elders in Benghazi, the main base of the anti-Gaddafi rebels.
He asked them to "give a chance to national dialogue to resolve this crisis, to help stop the bloodshed, and not give a chance to foreigners to come and capture our country again."
The appeal did not detail any concessions that Gaddafi's administration would be prepared to make. The rebels have said they will settle for nothing less than an end to Gaddafi's four decades in power.
The fact that Al-Talhi's appeal was broadcast on tightly-controlled state television indicated that it was officially endorsed.
Until now Gaddafi and his entourage have shown little public appetite for dialogue, describing the rebels as armed youths under the influence of drugs who have been manipulated by al Qaeda and foreign powers.
Tripoli last week appointed an envoy to take humanitarian aid to Benghazi but it was not clear if the envoy had a mandate to negotiate with the rebels.
Security forces loyal to Gaddafi have strengthened their military position in the last few days, squeezing two rebel-held towns in the West and checking the advance of rebel militias westwards towards the capital.