BENGHAZI, Libya — Libyan rebels delivered an emphatic no to an African Union proposal for an end to fighting in their country, insisting that Moammar Gadhafi must step down from power as part of any diplomatic solution.
The opposition council's announcement after closed-door talks with an AU delegation in the rebel-held city of Benghazi quashed hopes for an early end to the nearly 2-month-old conflict between Gadhafi's forces and opposition fighters.
South African President Jacob Zuma said late Sunday after meeting with Gadhafi in Tripoli, the capital, that Libya's leader had endorsed the AU's road map for peace. The proposal includes a cease-fire, the establishment of safe corridors for the delivery of humanitarian aid, and a dialogue on reforming Libya's political system, which Gadhafi has ruled for more than four decades.
Zuma's comments hinted at a possible diplomatic opening for ending Libya's stalemate, but the head of the opposition's political council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, summarily dismissed the proposal after the closed-door talks with the AU delegation.
"The African Union initiative does not include the departure of Gadhafi and his sons from the Libyan political scene, therefore it is outdated," Jalil said.
Gadhafi lost control of eastern Libya in February when anti-government demonstrations, inspired by the ouster of the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia, sparked a full-fledged revolt against the autocratic leader.
NATO also greeted news of Gadhafi's openness to a cease-fire with suspicion. Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a Brussels news briefing that Gadhafi's forces had demonstrated that they "did not keep their promises," the Reuters news agency reported.
On Monday, Gadhafi's fighters continued to attack the rebel-held western coastal city of Misrata, killing six people, according to a doctor who lives in the city.
Many more were wounded, said the doctor, who asked that his name not be published for security reasons.