Gaddafi sons broadcast confusion as battle looms

Thu Sep 1, 2011 6:56am GMT

By Samia Nakhoul and Maria Golovnina

TRIPOLI/TAWARGA, Libya (Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi's sons clashed on the airwaves on Wednesday, with one offering peace and another promising a 'war of attrition' as a final battle for control of Libya's coast loomed.

The conflicting messages were the latest evidence that the fallen leader was losing his grip on what remains of his entourage after a six-month uprising left his 42-year rule of the North African nation in tatters.

NATO warplanes struck at loyalist troops dug in around his beseiged hometown of Sirte -- his last stronghold along the heavily populated Mediterranean seaboard-- and refugees streamed out fearing a bloody showdown.

A week after they overran the capital, forcing Gaddafi into hiding, irregular troops of the new ruling council have paused in a drive to take Sirte and Gaddafi strongholds in the desert, giving Sirte's defenders until Saturday to surrender. But frontline clashes continued, as did NATO air strikes.

"We were talking about negotiations based on ending bloodshed," Gaddafi's son Saadi said on al-Arabiya television, saying he had been given his father's blessing to negotiate with the ruling National Transitional Council.

The head of Tripoli's military council, Abdul Hakim Belhadj, told Reuters he had spoken to Saadi by telephone and had promised him decent treatment if he surrenders.

"We want to spare bloodletting, therefore negotiation and surrender is preferable," Belhadj said. "If this does not happen there is no other way except a military solution."

In a sign of turbulence within the Gaddafi clan, the former leader's better-known son Saif al-Islam hurled defiance at the NATO-backed forces and said the fight would continue.   Continued...

Combination picture of Muammar Gaddafi's sons Saadi (L) and Saif al-Islam.    REUTERS/Staff/Files
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