Libya’s opposition is ready for a ceasefire provided Moammer Qaddafi’s forces end their assaults on rebel-held cities and repression of protesters, Transitional National Council leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil said April 1. “We agree on a ceasefire on the condition that our brothers in the western cities have freedom of expression and also that the forces that are besieging the cities withdraw,” Jalil told reporters after meeting Abdul Ilah Khatib, the UN special envoy to Libya. “Our main goal is to achieve a last ceasefire that will hold.” The appeal came as Qaddafi-loyal forces drove rebels back for a third day after sandstorms and clouds hindered NATO air strikes. There was no immediate response to the offer from Qaddafi officials.
The ceasefire call also comes one day after Mike Mullen, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said US jets will withdraw from NATO forces over Libya after April 2. Mullen said US planes would be made available only if requested by NATO. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Congress the US will “significantly ramp down our commitment” to Libya except for electronic warfare, aerial refueling and surveillance.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Beijing the situation in Libya can not be solved through “military means,” and called for a ceasefire. Westerwelle’s Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi also called for a ceasefire and a political exit to the crisis. “We should find a solution by diplomatic means,” he said. (Middle East Online, Bloomberg, DPA, April 1)
Oil deal with Qatar signed
Libya’s rebel government on April 1 also announced the signing of a deal with Qatar to market crude oil abroad in exchange for food, medicine and arms. “The Qatar government agreed, the agreement is signed, that they will market crude oil for us,” said Ali al-Tarhouni. He said that under a “barter” deal aimed at circumventing international sanctions, Qatar would market the oil and use the proceeds to purchase humanitarian supplies for the rebels. He also said the rebels hoped to use the oil revenues to procure weapons—”any kind of arms we can get to.” (AFP, April 1)
Tarhouni said the rebel government is seeking an exclusion from the embargo against Libya. “Our demands are simple and clear. Our top priority is lifting the sanctions that stop us exporting our oil,” he told reporters. “What we want is an exemption from the sanctions. This is our main problem. It is very hard for us, it is an obstacle.” Tarhouni said he had raised the matter with visiting UN envoy Abdelilah Al-Khatib.
Qatar recognized the Libyan rebel government on Mach. 28, a day after Tarhouni announced that the Gulf state had agreed to market oil produced from eastern Libyan fields no longer under the control of the Qaddafi regime. (Oil & Gas Journal, April 1)