As the U.S. military campaign in Libya reached its 60-day mark on Friday, Muammar el-Qaddafi's regime offered to withdraw its forces from various cities in the country if NATO stops its bombing campaign and the rebels there put down their weapons, the Wall Street Journal reports. It's unclear if this proposal will satisfy the rebels, who have long demanded that peace negotiations must include Qaddafi stepping down from power.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said that Russian officials broached the idea of a cease-fire, as Turkey had a month earlier. “We are prepared to withdraw all our army units from the cities... if we could work out a way to guarantee that no arms, no weapons are in these cities—not the government's weapons, not the armed rebellion's weapons," Ibrahim told reporters.
This would be a first step towards "a transitional period" for the Libyan people to decide their political future, he added.
Representatives from the rebels' interim national council have been making their way through Western and Arab capitals, making the case for international recognition and calling for the U.S. and allies to unfreeze billions of dollars in Qaddafi-linked assets that have been seized under sanctions for use by the rebels.
Overnight, NATO fighter jets bombed three ports--including the main port in Tripoli. CNN reports that eight of Qaddafi's ships were hit this morning--his navy is accused of trying to attack ships in the Misurata area and gain access to the port city to harm civilians. Qaddafi’s forces have kept hold of the capital, Tripoli, and other cities in western Libya, though the rebels have long held much of the country’s east, operating an interim government out of Benghazi. After a bloody battle, rebels now control much of Misurata, but are struggling to hold their gains.
The U.S., as part of the NATO-led effort, has been launching strikes in Libya under the authority of a United Nations resolution. Some Republican senators are waiting to hear from Obama on whether he will seek out congressional authorization to continue the mission longer than 60 days, as proscribed by the War Powers Act.
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