Libyan PM says airstrikes must stop before talks

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 26, 2011 12:19 PM
Libyan PM says airstrikes must stop before talks

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya will not begin talks on ending a conflict with rebels before NATO air strikes stop, and Muammar Gaddafi's leadership is not up for negotiation, the prime minister said on Tuesday.

"This aggression (air strikes) needs to stop immediately, without that we cannot have a dialogue, we cannot solve any problems in Libya," Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi told a news conference after talks with a visiting U.N. envoy.

Asked if he had told the envoy that Gaddafi's position was not up for negotiation, Mahmoudi said: "Exactly."

U.N. envoy Abdul Elah al-Khatib arrived in Tripoli straight from talks with the rebels in their eastern stronghold of Benghazi on Monday.

Efforts to find a deal to end the five-month-old war in Libya have intensified as Gaddafi defies efforts to unseat him by rebels supported by NATO air strikes.

Khatib has said only that he is looking for a "political process" to end the war.

Western powers have softened their line on Gaddafi, signaling that he could stay in the country if he gave up power.

Mahmoudi said he had a productive meeting with the U.N. envoy.

"We stated clearly to Mr. Khatib that a ceasefire is a must before we can have any sort of dialogue," he added.

(Reporting by Missy Ryan; Writing by Richard Meares; Editing by Louise Ireland)