Libyan rebels reject role for Gadhafi sons

ISTANBUL (AP) — A diplomatic push by Moammar Gadhafi’s regime ran into trouble Monday as opponents at home and abroad rejected any solution to the Libyan conflict that would involve one of his sons taking power.

While a Gadhafi envoy lobbied diplomats in European capitals, Italy became the third nation to declare that the rebels’ interim council in Libya is the only legitimate voice for the people of the North African nation.

Meanwhile, rebel fighters pushed back into Brega on Monday, seizing half of the hard-fought oil town and pledging to drive out Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces in hours in an advance that would open a vital conduit for oil sales by the oppostion.

Lightly armed and loosely organized opposition forces have surged into and beyond Brega several times in recent weeks from their strongholds in eastern Libya, only to be driven out by Gadhafi loyalists exploiting the rebels’ inability to hold territory. In recent days the opposition has placed the front lines under the control of former military men, creating a more disciplined advance against Gadhafi’s forces.

The diplomatic whirlwind could signal a softening of his regime’s hardline public stance against any compromise that would end the fighting and steer Libya toward a political resolution.

Any long-term settlement poses tough questions about the fate of Gadhafi’s family and the new leader of a post-Gadhafi nation.

Some of Gadhafi’s adversaries quickly rejected the idea that any of his powerful sons, some of whom command militias accused of attacks on civilians, might play a transitional leadership role that would undoubtedly protect the family’s vast economic interests.

Gadhafi, who took power in a 1969 coup, has a legacy of brutality and involvement in terrorism but was able to prolong his rule and even emerge from pariah status over the past decade with the help of Libya’s immense oil wealth. Potential rivals to the eccentric leader were sidelined during four decades of harsh rule based on personal and tribal loyalties that undermined the army and other national institutions.

In Rome, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini welcomed Ali al-Essawi, the foreign envoy of the Libyan National Transitional Council, which was hastily set up in the eastern, rebel-held city of Benghazi as the uprising against Gadhafi began in February.

“We have decided to recognize the council as the only political, legitimate interlocutor to represent Libya,” Frattini told reporters. He said he will send an envoy to Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, in the coming days.

Frattini also insisted that Gadhafi and his family must go.

“Any solution for the future of Libya has a precondition: that Gadhafi’s regime leaves ... that Gadhafi himself and the family leave the country,” Frattini said.

Italy is the third country, after France and Qatar, to give diplomatic recognition to the rebel council, despite international concerns about the unity, origin and ultimate intentions of the opposition. Its leaders have said they are committed to democratic reform, but U.S. lawmakers have cautioned that the allies need to know more about them before providing them with any weapons to fight Gadhafi’s forces.

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