Libya 'Ceasefire Talks Under Way'

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Al Jazeera English

Libya 'Ceasefire Talks Under Way'

Libyan deputy foreign minister hints at ongoing secret talks between UK and Gaddafi's government to end the fighting.

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There are talks of Gaddafi's exit as NATO air raids diminish the long-time Libyan leader's military capability (Reuters)

Secret channels are being opened between the government of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and the UK over a possible ceasefire, sources have told Al Jazeera.

Abdelati al-Obeidi, the Libyan deputy foreign minister, who has been leading the government's diplomacy after Musa Kousa, the foreign minister, defected, gave hints on Saturday to Al Jazeera's James Bays about the secret talks to end the war.

The Al Jazeera correspondent, who spoke to al-Obeidi on a flight to the southern Tunisian town of Djerba, said the Libyan official was quite guarded in his approach and said that "he really was not authorised to tell me what had taken place at this meeting".

"The deputy foreign minister did admit that he had come for talks which have been taking place with British officials. He could not say what the talks were about but did say it was an exchange of views and a channel of communication being opened by them," he said.

Though he denied that there was any talk of an exit strategy for Gaddafi, he said the government was willing to talk to the opposition in Benghazi, our correspondent said.

He quoted al-Obeidi as saying: "We want to end this war and we want to end soon."

It's an indication of British agenda playing quite a leading role here and in this behind the scene process, probably British diplomats or members of MI6 may be involved. Remember they [MI6] were also involved in Kousa's defection about two months ago, the Al Jazeera correspondent said.

But the response from Britain has been reasonably low key.

Our correspondent said: "I have talked to a representative of the British foreign ministry, a spokeswoman, who said there have been no talks with British diplomats. She said 'they were aware that meetings had taken place with the minister and British citizens but made it clear that they were not civil servants and not diplomats.'"

NATO strikes continue

The development comes as Nato carried out a rare daytime airstrikes on the capital, Tripoli.

A number of explosions were heard throughout the night into Saturday, and at least one of the blasts was said to be near a compound used by Gaddafi.

Columns of smoke were seen rising over the skyline of the city and loud booms could be heard.

State television said the overnight NATO raids also caused "human and material" damage near Mizda, to the south.

Misurata, Libya's third largest city now controlled by opposition forces and the scene of some of the fiercest battles in the conflict, was hit by a second day of heavy fighting on its western outskirts on Friday.

Doctors at the local hospital said five opposition fighters were killed and more than a dozen others wounded.

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