BENGHAZI - Libya’s opposition on Friday stressed there is no question of allowing Moamer Gaddafi to cling to power, as a Russian envoy said the rebels and the strongman’s camp have forged multiple contacts.
Two loud blasts meanwhile shook Libya’s capital Tripoli following a series of more distant explosions heard earlier in the day, an AFP reporter said.
The Russian envoy, Mikhail Margelov, said in Tunis that Gaddafi’s representatives have made contact with the Libyan rebels in a number of European capitals, including Berlin, Paris and Oslo.
Contacts have also occurred in other countries, Margelov said after a meeting with Tunisian Foreign Minister Mohamed Mouldi el Kefi.
Margelov had said Thursday after meeting Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi in Tripoli that talks had taken place between the Gaddafi regime and rebels in Paris only.
France however said Friday it is not overseeing any such talks.
“If there have been direct contacts, we’re not involved and we didn’t set them up,” French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in Paris when asked about Margelov’s comments.
An official of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) told AFP in the opposition stronghold Benghazi in eastern Libya that their position was unchanged.
“Gaddafi must go. Anyone from the rebel side who negotiates his staying in power would immediately have an NTC arrest warrant issued against him,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The NTC has not commented officially and Margelov, who last week visited the rebels in Benghazi and who is seeking a mediating role in the Libyan conflict, did not disclose the nature of the supposed talks.
Mahmudi said on Thursday Gaddafi’s departure was a “red line” that cannot be crossed, despite growing international calls for him to quit and the armed insurrection against his 41-year rule.
“Of utmost concern to us in any dialogue is the unity of Libya,” Mahmudi told reporters in Tripoli. Friday’s blasts in Tripoli came as NATO warplanes constantly overflew the Libyan capital.
The warplanes on Thursday destroyed an apparently empty hotel, the Wenzrik, in central Tripoli near administrative buildings and Libya’s state broadcaster, an AFP reporter taken to the site said.
Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim later denounced what he called a “barbaric and premeditated raid by NATO on civilians.”
In a statement on Friday, NATO said key hits the previous day included a surface-to-air missile launcher near Tripoli, seven truck-mounted guns and three tanks near Brega and five truck-mounted guns in the Misrata area.