Leaders of the African Union arrive in Benghazi Monday to present Libyan rebels with a peace plan. Colonel Moammar Gadhafi has already accepted the proposals in principle.
Anti-Gadhafi protesters rallied outside the hotel where the African Union envoys were laying out their proposals. The plan calls for an immediate end to all hostilities, including NATO air strikes, urgent delivery of humanitarian aid, protection of foreign nationals and the start of political reforms.
The rebel Transitional National Council has made clear any cease-fire must include the withdrawal of government forces from their current positions in such places as the besieged western city of Misrata.
On the political front, the rebels have insisted that Colonel Gadhafi leave and that his sons have no role in any future Libyan government. But prior to the meeting with the AU delegation, the rebel leaders said they would at least listen to the African envoys.
Protester Najla, an eye doctor who preferred to give just her first name, believes the AU plan falls far short.
“All the sections, the divisions of the society are saying ‘no,’ a very big ‘no’ to this regime,” Najla said. “And I don’t know which part of the sentence the whole world doesn’t understand. Everybody’s saying we want to make some dialogue. We don’t want some dialogue. We don’t make dialogue with them. We don’t want anybody of them here in this country.”
But South African President Jacob Zuma expressed hope Sunday evening in Tripoli that the deal was on the right track.
“I think it is sufficient for me to say that the leader and his delegation have accepted the road map as presented by the high panel of the AU, and the delegation to which I am part,” Zuma said.
The South African president added that the possibility of Gadhafi’s stepping down had been discussed, but gave no details.
The high-level delegation is viewed with some suspicion in Benghazi, where people have long resented Colonel Gadhafi’s funding of African development and military projects at, what they view as the expense of eastern Libya. Rebels say they feel the colonel’s largesse will translate into a deal favoring the status quo rather than their calls for change.
Rebels are also unlikely to accept a cease-fire that includes an end to NATO bombings, which are credited with turning the tide of the battle for the eastern city Ajdabiya, at least temporarily. voa