TRIPOLI, Libya, Sept. 1 (UPI) — An official with Libya’s transitional government said rebel fighters have cornered fugitive leader Moammar Gadhafi, a statement one of Gadhafi’s sons denies.
The transitional government official said Gadhafi was boxed in at a desert stronghold about 150 miles from Tripoli and that he was being urged to surrender, The New York Times reported Thursday.
However, Saif Gadhafi goaded rebels in an audio statement, vowing that Gadhafi loyalists would never surrender and insisting “victory will be near.”
“Our leadership is fine,” he said in the statement aired by several Arab broadcasters. “We are drinking tea and coffee.”
The younger Gadhafi gave no indication in the statement about his location except that he was in a Tripoli suburb. It also wasn’t clear if his remarks were pre-recorded, the Times said.
Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, deputy chairman of the rebel Transitional National Council, told the Times earlier Thursday fighters believed they had found the elder Gadhafi in Bani Walid, a desert town southeast of the Libyan capital.
The transition government has given Gadhafi family members, relatives and loyalists until Saturday to cease fighting without conditions.
Ghoga confirmed reports another son, Saadi Gadhafi, offered to negotiate a coalition government with the rebels, but rebels rejected the offer .
A third Gadhafi son, Khamis, was reported killed near Bani Walid, but his death has been not verified independently.
Gadhafi’s wife, two other sons, a daughter and other relatives fled to Algeria, but the Algerian foreign minister Thursday squelched comments that the fugitive Libyan leader himself is in the country, CNN reported.
“Of course not,” Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci told French radio when asked whether Gadhafi was in Algeria. “The hypothesis that Mr. Gadhafi could come knocking on our door was never considered.”
Medelci said the Algerian government received members of Gadhafi’s family for “mainly humanitarian reasons.”
Kuwaiti news service KUNA, citing an Algerian newspaper, reported Gadhafi sought sanctuary in Algeria but Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika refused to grant him an entry permit.
When Gadhafi arrived at a border region and tried to contact Bouteflika, the Algerian president did not respond and gave orders to border guards to bar Gadhafi from entering, the Algerian newspaper reported.
Officials said 31 members of the ousted leader’s family were in Algeria.