Libya NTC says extends Sirte surrender deadline

BENGHAZI, Libya Thu Sep 1, 2011 5:44pm BST

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Libya's ruling National Transitional Council has extended by one week its deadline for the surrender of Sirte, Muammar Gaddafi's last bastion of support on the Mediterranean coast, an NTC spokesman said on Thursday.

"They have extended the deadline by a week," spokesman Mohammad Zawawi said of the ultimatum for Gaddafi's forces to give up, originally set for Saturday, September 3. "That means there's progress in the negotiations."

The NTC has warned of an all-out military assault if Gaddafi loyalists do not yield the town, one of the last holdouts after fighters streamed into the capital Tripoli last week and ended Gaddafi's 42-year rule.

Gaddafi's son Saadi said Wednesday he had been in contact with the NTC to help negotiate and end to "bloodshed" and that he had his father's blessing to do so. But in a sign of tumult within Gaddafi's inner circle, his better-known son Saif al-Islam called for a "war of attrition."

NTC officials have said they are attempting to convince Gaddafi loyalists in Sirte that the old regime is finished, and that they will be treated fairly if they surrender. The talks come alongside a blockade of supplies to the town, they said.

"We're not in a rush to get in to Sirte. It has no economic importance and we're not going to lose casualties for it," Zawawi said. "We can cut supplies and wait, even more than a week," he said.

(Reporting by Robert Birsel; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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