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Libyan rebel commander says Gadhafi's son al-Saadi offers to surrender
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) ' Moammar Gadhafi's son al-Saadi is trying to negotiate the terms of his own surrender, the rebel commander in Tripoli told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The commander, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, said al-Saadi first called him Tuesday and asked whether his safety could be guaranteed. "We told him 'Don't fear for your life. We will guarantee your rights as a human being, and will deal with you humanely,' said Belhaj, confirming a report on Al-Jazeera television. Belhaj added that al-Saadi would be turned over to legal authorities after his surrender.
If the offer is confirmed ' the rebels have previously claimed to have captured Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam, who hours later turned up free ' the surrender would be a major blow to Gadhafi's crumbling regime. The rebels have been pressing toward Gadhafi's last major stronghold, his hometown of Sirte, and loyalists now only control a handful of areas, including Bani Walid to the west.
Gadhafi's wife and three of his children fled to Algeria earlier this week, while the longtime dictator and several of his sons are still at large.
Belhaj said Al-Saadi told him he had not killed anyone, and that "he was not against the people."
"I told him 'This is good. What is important for us is not to shed Libyan blood. For the members of the regime to surrender is the best way to do this,'" said Belhaj.
The commander said al-Saadi had called back early Wednesday morning, but that he had missed the call. He said he knows al-Saadi's whereabouts, but prefers to negotiate a surrender. He gave no further details.
Belhaj's comments came hours after Gadhafi's chief spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, called the AP headquarters in NY, reiterating the senior Gadhafi's offer to send al-Saadi to negotiate with the rebels and form a transitional government. The rebels have previously rejected such offers.
Ibrahim also rejected a rebel ultimatum for loyalists in Sirte to surrender by Saturday or face an attack.
There has been speculation that Gadhafi is seeking refuge in Sirte or one of the other remaining regime strongholds, among them the towns of Bani Walid or Sabha. Top rebel officials say they have "a good idea" where Gadhafi is hiding, but haven't given any details.
"No dignified honorable nation would accept an ultimatum from armed gangs," he said. Ibrahim reiterated Gadhafi's offer to send his son al-Saadi to negotiate with rebels and form a transitional government.
The report came as Libyans wept over the graves of those killed in their six-month war against Gadhafi, then celebrated their newfound freedom with morning prayers and joyous chants in the capital's main square ' bittersweet rituals marking the start of a major Muslim holiday.