Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Zuma asks Gaddafi for help on Hammerl

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has asked President Jacob Zuma to provide DNA samples from South African photographer Anton Hammerl to help the Libyan authorities find his body.

Zuma had promised Hammerl's family that he would ask Gaddafi for help in locating Hammerl's remains when he met Gaddafi in Tripoli yesterday to try to end the civil war, sources said.

Hammerl was shot by Libyan government forces near Brega, a town in the east of the country, on April 5 and left for dead in the desert, according to other journalists who were travelling with him.

Zuma said after the meeting yesterday that Gaddafi was ready for a truce to stop the fighting.

"He is ready to sign the roadmap," Zuma said, referring to the AU proposal for a ceasefire – including an end to Nato aerial bombardments – and negotiations between Gaddafi and his rebel enemies for political reforms to address the underlying causes of the conflict.

Zuma said Gaddafi had insisted that "all Libyans be given a chance to talk among themselves" to determine the country's future.

But the AU roadmap does not require Gaddafi step down as a precondition for negotiations, which the rebels have demanded.

There had been some speculation that Zuma would suggest to Gaddafi that he should step down. But he did not say after the meeting that Gaddafi was ready to surrender power and so in Benghazi rebel Foreign Minister Fathi Baja rejected the AU plan.

"We refuse completely, we don't consider it a political initiative, it is only some stuff that Gaddafi wants to announce to stay in power," he said.

Baja said he believed Zuma was in Tripoli to negotiate an exit strategy for Gaddafi, though Zuma's office denied that.

Baja also said the rebels would launch an offensive against Gaddafi soon.



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