Elizabeth Arrott | Benghazi, Libya
Libyan rebel leaders have rejected a proposed African Union peace plan. African envoys had hoped the plan, accepted in principle by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, would bring about a cease-fire.
The African envoys were given a stormy welcome in the rebel stronghold. Outside the hotel where they met with rebel leaders, anti-government protesters chanted "Gadhafi must go, " a message repeated by the officials inside.
Rebel spokesman Abdelhafiz Ghoga said the African Union proposal, drafted one month ago, no longer had any bearing on the present circumstances. Ghoga added that even as the delegation held talks on an immediate cease-fire, the forces of Colonel Gadhafi, who the day before said he agreed to the plan, were shelling the rebel-held city of Misrata.
In addition to an end of all hostilities, including NATO air strikes, the plan also called for an urgent delivery of humanitarian aid, protection of foreign nationals and the start of political reforms.
The rebel Transitional National Council has insisted any cease-fire must include the withdrawal of government forces from their current positions as well as the right to freely demonstrate.
On the political front, the rebels have insisted that Colonel Gadhafi leave and that his sons have no role in any future Libyan government.
Protester Najla, an eye doctor who preferred to give just her first name, expressed frustration at the AU proposals. "All the sections, the divisions of the society are saying 'no,' a very big 'no' to this regime. And I don't know which part of the sentence the whole world doesn't understand. Everybody's saying we want to make some dialogue. We don't want some dialogue. We don't make dialogue with them. We don't want anybody of them here in this country," she said.
The high-level AU delegation was viewed with some suspicion in Benghazi, where people have long resented Colonel Gadhafi's funding of African development and military projects at, what they view as the expense of eastern Libya. Rebels said they feel the colonel's largesse translated into a plan favoring the status quo rather than their calls for change.