UPDATE 1-Arab media says Gaddafi looking for exit deal
CAIRO, March 7
CAIRO, March 7 (Reuters) - Two Arab newspapers and al Jazeera television said on Monday Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was looking for an agreement allowing him to step down, but there was no official confirmation of the reports.
Al Jazeera said Gaddafi had proposed to Libyan rebels to hold a meeting of parliament to pave the way for him to step down with certain guarantees.
It said Gaddafi made the proposal to the interim council, which speaks for mostly eastern areas controlled by his opponents. It quoted sources in the council as saying Gaddafi wanted guarantees of personal safety for him and his family and a pledge that they not be put on trial.
Al Jazeera said sources from the council told its correspondent in Benghazi that the offer was rejected because it would have amounted to an "honourable" exit for Gaddafi and would offend his victims.
The London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat and the daily al-Bayan, based in the United Arab Emirates, also cited unnamed sources as saying Gaddafi was looking for an agreement.
A source close to the council told Reuters he had heard that "one formula being proposed by the other side would see Gaddafi hand power to the head of parliament and leave the country with a certain guaranteed sum of money."
"I was told that this issue of money is a serious obstacle from the national council's point of view," he said, adding that his information came from a single source close to the council.
Essam Gheriani, a media officer for the council, said: "No such offer has been been put to the council as far as I am aware."
APPEAL FOR DIALOGUE
Jadallah Azous Al-Talhi, a leading member of the ruling establishment and a prime minister in the 1980s, appealed to rebel leaders for dialogue on Monday, in the clearest sign yet Gaddafi may be ready to compromise with opponents challenging his four-decade rule.
The fact that state television screened Talhi's appeal indicated that it was officially endorsed.
But the council said there was no room for broad dialogue with Gaddafi and any talks must be on the basis that he quits.
Asked about Talhi's address, rebel official Ahmed Jabreel told Reuters: "Talhi is a close acquaintance of mine and he is widely respected in Libya as a man who stood up to Gaddafi.
"But we have made it clear all along that any negotiations must be on the basis that Gaddafi will step down. There can be no other compromise."
Asharq al-Awsat, citing "informed Libyan sources" in Benghazi, said Gaddafi sent a negotiator to the rebel council with an offer to step down provided he had guarantees for his personal safety and that of his family as well as his money.
Al Bayan quoted a source close to Gaddafi's inner circle as saying the Libyan leader had begun looking for a safe haven outside Libya.
"He has begun making contacts with African and Arab states in search for a safe haven that will allow him to leave Libya in a way that suits his position and would not infringe on his dignity," it quoted the source as saying.
The source said that "great divisions" within the Libyan army had caused Gaddafi to lose control of large parts of the country to rebels, according to an advance copy of the article.
One of Gaddafi's sons, Saadi, said Libya would descend into civil war if his father stepped down, Al Arabiya television reported on Monday.
"The situation is very dangerous. From the perspective of a civil war, the leader must play a very, very big role in calming Libya and convincing people to sit together," Saadi Gaddafi said in an interview with the Arabic satellite channel.
"If something happened to the leader, who would be in control? A civil war would start," he added. (Reporting by Tom Pfeiffer in Benghazi, Edmund Blair in Cairo and Sami Aboudi in Dubai; writing by Myra MacDonald; editing by Diana Abdallah)
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