Libyan rebels reject African cease-fire proposal

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Libyan rebels, backed forcefully by European leaders, rejected a cease-fire proposal by African mediators on Monday because it did not insist that Moammar Gadhafi relinquish power.

A day after an announcement that the Libyan leader had accepted the truce, a doctor in rebel-held Misrata said Gadhafi’s forces battered that western city and its Mediterranean port with artillery fire that killed six people.

“He is the biggest lie in the history of Libya,” said Jilal Tajouri, 42, who joined more than 1,000 flag-waving protesters in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi as the African Union delegation arrived.

“All the people in Libya agree on this: Gadhafi and all his sons must leave Libya so we can have democracy,” Tajouri said.

The rebels’ leadership council agreed.

“Col. Gadhafi and his sons must leave immediately if he wants to save himself. “If not, the people are coming for him,” said Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, a former justice minister who split with Gadhafi and heads the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council.

In their talks with the African Union delegation, the rebels raised the issue of Gadhafi’s reliance on foreign mercenaries from other African and Arab nations, particularly Algeria, said Abdul-Jalil, without elaborating.

The protesters in Benghazi said they had little faith in the visiting African Union mediators, most of them allies of Gadhafi. Three of the five African leaders who came preaching democracy for Libya seized power in coups.

South African President Jacob Zuma led the group, whose other key participants were the leaders of Mali, Mauritania, Republic of Congo and Uganda.

Wary of Gadhafi’s earlier broken cease-fire pledges, European officials supported the rebels’ refusal to negotiate until Gadhafi and his powerful sons and associates are gone.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini strongly backed the rebel demand for Gadhafi’s immediate departure and said he doubted that the Libyan leader would have abided by the cease-fire after breaking more than one previous pledge to halt violence. The AU sought a suspension of three weeks of international airstrikes that have prevented Gadhafi’s forces from overpowering the vastly weaker rebel forces.

Gadhafi’s forces, meanwhile, shelled Misrata despite the African Union delegation’s assurance that Gadhafi had accepted their cease-fire plan at a meeting late Sunday in Tripoli.

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