Russian visitor: Gadhafi ready for talks with NATO

AP News
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Posted: Jun 14, 2011 8:17 AM
Russian visitor: Gadhafi ready for talks with NATO

The Russian head of the World Chess Federation said Tuesday after playing chess with Moammar Gadhafi that the Libyan leader is open to talks with NATO and the country's rebels.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said Gadhafi had told him that he was ready to immediately start peace talks once NATO stops air raids, but shrugged off international demands for him to leave.

Russia has joined the West in urging the Libyan leader to step down, and Kremlin foreign affairs advisor Sergei Prikhodko said Ilyumzhinov had conveyed Moscow's official position during his meeting Sunday with Gadhafi in Tripoli.

IIyumzhinov said at a news conference that Gadhafi replied he had no official job to resign from and that he has no intention of leaving the country.

"I will not go anywhere, my relatives died here and I will also die in that land," Ilyumzhinov quoted the Libyan leader as telling him during the meeting.

Ilyumzhinov's office released a tape in which he was playing chess with the Libyan leader, clad in black and brown and wearing sunglasses.

Allowing Gadhafi to play white, Ilyumzhinov seemed to be showing him how to begin the game and then called it a draw.

Ilyumzhinov, who formerly headed Russia's province of Kalmykia, is noted for eccentric behavior including claims he was visited by a UFO.

Gadhafi had not been seen since a brief appearance on state television in late May. He has been in hiding since NATO strikes in April struck one his homes. Libyan officials said one of his sons, Saif al-Arab, and three of his grandchildren were killed in that strike.

Ilyumzhinov said he had visited the ruins of the house and discussed the raid with Gadhafi. He said Gadhafi had told him he had left the house after having dinner with his family minutes before the NATO strike.

"He told me that he doesn't understand why he and his relatives were sentenced to death without a trial," Ilyumzhinov said.

NATO has been bombing Gadhafi's troops, military facilities and government installations to enforce a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force to protect civilians. The alliance is backing the rebel insurgency, which has seized swaths of eastern Libya and pockets in the regime's stronghold in the west since it began in February.

Last week NATO began the heaviest bombardment of Gadhafi forces since it taking control of the skies over Libya.