Libyan state television has broadcast pictures of Colonel Gaddafi making his first public appearance in weeks to welcome South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma.
The Libyan leader, who had not been seen publically since May 11, hosted Mr Zuma at his compound in Tripoli and reportedly took him to the bombed house where his son Saif al Arab and three of his grandchildren were killed in a Nato airstrike.
Following the meeting Mr Zuma told reporters that he had spoken “in detail” with Col Gaddafi and had reiterated the African Union’s call for talks to find a peaceful solution to the situation.
The South African President reported that Col Gaddafi was “ready to implement the decision of the AU” but only if there is a ceasefire which includes a halt to Nato bombings, terms already rejected last month after an earlier mediation mission by Mr Zuma.
Col Gaddafi also told the South African leader that the Libyan people should be left “to talk among themselves and solve their problems”, but said he was ready to “implement the roadmap of the AU”.
The no-fly zone, which was temporarily lifted so Mr Zuma’s plane could land, was back in place after his visit and explosions, attributed to Nato airstrikes, were heard again in the city at nightfall.
Publicly regime officials insist Col Gaddafi will not accept a deal which involves stepping aside, but privately some are starting to voice the view with me that he must step aside in order for the country to hold new elections.
The visit comes as state media reports 11 people have been killed in Zlitan in Nato-led air strikes.
Eight senior army officials, including five generals, are also said to have defected and have held a press conference in Rome to call on other members of the army to join them.
One officer, who identified himself as General Oun Ali Oun, told reporters: “What is happening to our people has frightened us.
“There is a lot of killing, genocide… violence against women. No wise, rational person with the minimum of dignity can do what we saw with our eyes and what he asked us to do.”
In Benghazi, the rebel Foreign Minister Fathi Baja said he believed Mr Zuma was in Tripoli to negotiate an exit strategy for Col Gaddafi, something the South African’s office denies.
Mr Baja said: “I think Gaddafi is in big trouble, the balance of power has changed completely militarily, the circle around him is deserting him… even Russia is asking him to leave.”
Mr Baja said the rebels would launch an offensive against the apparently weakened leader soon.
Mr Zuma’s visit was welcomed by the international community as he is said to have a good relationship with Col Gaddafi.
The President is widely reported to have accepted financial assistance from Col Gaddafi during his serial trials for fraud and rape, but has never confirmed this himself.
Mr Zuma’s officials say he is visiting in his capacity as a member of the African Union High Level Panel for the Resolution of the Conflict in Libya.
South Africa is a member of the UN Security Council and despite voting for UN Resolution 1973 has criticised the bombing campaign.
Col Gaddafi has a circle of advisors but notoriously after nearly 42 years in power he is a political island.
There are several key factors which will make attempts to force Col Gaddafi out of the country more difficult.
He may see it as betraying the memory of his son Saif al Arab and three grandchildren who were killed in the Nato air strike.
Also, the International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for Col Gaddafi and his son Saif al Islam.
Over the last week the military actions has intensified and there have been daytime bombings for the first time over the long weekend.
This may signal a change in strategy by Nato sending a message to the dictator that they will continue to strike at the heart of his regime whenever they want.
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