The Libyan rebels insisted Monday that the whole Gaddafi family must leave before there can be any truce with regime forces amid reports that his sons are offering to oversee a transition.
Rebel troops made a new attempt to recapture the oil town of Brega, advancing under artillery fire, as hundreds wounded in besieged third city Misrata were evacuated by ship.
Greece's foreign minister said after a meeting in Athens between the prime minister and a Libyan envoy that Gaddafi's regime is “looking for a solution.”
The New York Times reported that two of his sons were offering to oversee a transition to a constitutional democracy that would include their father's removal from power. But the rebels swiftly rejected any deal that involved the Gaddafi family.
“Gaddafi and his sons have to leave before any diplomatic negotiations can take place,” said the spokesman of the rebels' Transitional National Council, Shamseddin Abdulmelah.
The rebel spokesman said the regime had lost any right to talk of a negotiated exit after it had continued to pound Misrata even as it sent Deputy Foreign Minister Abdelati Laabidi to Athens to discuss a way out of the conflict. “How can you negotiate at the point of a gun?” he asked.
Citing an unnamed diplomat and a Libyan official briefed on the Gaddafis’ proposals, the New York Times said that the transition would be spearheaded by one of the veteran strongman’s sons, Seif al-Islam.
But Abdulmelah said that Seif al-Islam had shown through his conduct since the uprising began on February 15 that his reputation as someone who wanted to change the regime from within was completely baseless.
“People thought he was a reformer but since the revolution began, he has shown his true colours. He is a carbon copy of his father,” the spokesman said.
Laabidi was to travel on Monday to Turkey and then on to Malta after his visit to Athens which came at Libya's request. “According to what the Libyan envoy said the regime seems to be looking for a solution,” Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said in a statement after Sunday's meeting between Laabidi and Prime Minister George Papandreou.
Rebel fighters came under heavy artillery fire from Gaddafi's forces as they pushed towards Brega on Monday after having beaten a scattered retreat from the oil town the previous day.
A column of fighters moved to within a kilometre (mile) of Brega university, where they set up a checkpoint, before Gaddafi forces began shelling them, an AFP correspondent reported.