Kim Sengupta: A dubious offer, but a difficult one to refuse

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The Independent Online

General Abdel-Fattah Younis was in full flow at the Ouzo Hotel in Benghazi on the theme of Nato not doing enough. He had just said: "As they do nothing our people are getting murdered in Misrata..." when a man burst into the hall shouting "You murdered my son in 2006, you bastard..." before being dragged away.

The past cannot be kept buried in Libya. General Younis is a former interior minister in Gaddafi's regime, who declared himself the head of the opposition forces after defecting. But the oppression carried out by his men has left a bitter legacy and many cannot forget.

He is not the only former member of the regime in the administration of "Free Libya". Khalifa Heftar, who for a while feuded with General Younis over who was rebel commander, was a general in Gaddafi's military.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the leader of the Transitional National Council, is a former regime justice minister. The foreign minister of the Council, Mahmoud Jibril, used to head Gaddafi's National Economic Development Board. Both were seen as allies by Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's son.

The main stumbling block to a ceasefire is the insistence by the rebels that no talks can be held unless Gaddafi and his family go into exile. But the rebel forces have done little to hasten that process.

With the war in stalemate, the Western powers accept they will have to talk to current regime officials as long as they do not have "blood on their hands".

Some of the "cleaner" officials are said to be trying to move Gaddafi away from the levers of power to the role of a figurehead, before he is persuaded to retire abroad. Unless the Colonel flees or is killed, a time may come when the West and, therefore, the rebels have to accept this option.

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