Muammar Gaddafi Calls for Ceasefire in Libyan TV Address
Muammar Gaddafi says he wants to negotiate with Nato powers, as air strikes hit government complex in Libyan capital.
By Harriet Sherwood in Tripoli, Xan Rice in Misrata and Associated Press
Saturday 30 April 2011
Muammar Gaddafi called for a mutual ceasefire and negotiations with Nato powers in a live speech on state TV early on Saturday, while Nato bombs struck a government complex in the Libyan capital.
The targeted compound included the state television building, which was not damaged. Gaddafi spoke from an undisclosed location.
In his rambling pre-dawn speech, the Libyan leader appeared subdued but defiant, repeatedly pausing as he flipped through handwritten notes.
"The door to peace is open," Gaddafi said, sitting behind a desk. "You are the aggressors. We will negotiate with you. Come France, Italy, UK, America, come, we will negotiate with you. Why are you attacking us?"
He said Libyans had the right to choose their own political system, but not under the threat of Nato bombings. "Why are you killing our children? Why are you destroying our infrastructure," he said.
Rebel leaders have said they will only lay down their arms and begin talks on Libya's future after Gaddafi and his sons step aside. Gaddafi has repeatedly refused to resign.
Reporters visiting the scene of the air strikes were told two damaged buildings housed a commission for women and children and offices of parliamentary staff.
One of at least three bombs or missiles knocked down a large part of a two-storey building. In another building, doors were blown out and ceiling tiles had dropped to the ground. One missile hit the street outside the attorney general's office. A policeman said three people were wounded, one seriously.
Hours earlier, government forces shelled the besieged rebel city of Misrata, killing 15 people, including a nine-year-old boy, hospital doctors said.
On Friday Libya's civil war briefly spilled into Tunisia as pro-Gaddafi troops made incursions over the border in a battle to retake a key crossing from rebel hands.
Libyan soldiers were captured by Tunisian forces after firing indiscriminately in clashes that lasted about 90 minutes, according to reports. Witnesses said three Tunisians were injured.
Any sign of the Libyan conflict stretching into Tunisa would have serious regional implications. "Given the gravity of what has happened … the Tunisian authorities have informed the Libyans of their extreme indignation and demand measures to put an immediate stop to these violations," the Tunisian foreign ministry said.
Rebels later claimed the Wazin-Dehiba crossing was back in their hands. "Gaddafi forces are no longer in Dehiba. They were defeated," a witness named as Akram told the Associated Press. Control of the crossing has changed several times in the past 10 days.
More than 30,000 refugees have flooded across the border since fighting intensified about three weeks ago, and it is a critical supply and escape route for the besieged opposition.
The area is dominated by Berbers, who have suffered systematic repression under the Gaddafi regime.
Nato said it was mounting air strikes against loyalist targets in two towns in the region, Zintan and Yafrin. It said its aircraft had destroyed a dozen tanks in the area this month.
Heavy fighting in Misrata centred on the area around the airport, the last position held by Gaddafi's forces. The Libyan army continued shelling the port, the city's lifeline, as Nato said its warships had caught government naval forces trying to lay mines in the harbour.
Brigadier Rob Weighill, the British director of Nato's Libyan operations, said his ships had intercepted small boats laying mines in the harbour, which is the only entry point for food and medical supplies into Misrata.
"It again shows [Gaddafi's] complete disregard for international law and his willingness to attack humanitarian delivery efforts," Weighill said in Naples.
Aid agencies have evacuated thousands of civilians and injured people from the port. Rebels have also brought in light weapons from eastern Libya by sea.