TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Rebels said businessmen had offered a $1.67 million bounty for Moammar Gadhafi Wednesday while one of his sons sought a cease-fire to end the Libyan civil war.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebels’ Transitional National Council, said he supported the offer by Libyan businessmen to pay 2 million Libyan dinars to anyone who can produce Colonel Gadhafi “dead or alive,” The Daily Telegraph reported.
Jalil said the rebels, on the verge of completing their takeover of the country with Gadhafi routed from his compound in Tripoli, were offering amnesty to “members of [Gadhafi's] close circle who kill him or capture him.”
“Businessmen in Benghazi have set-up an award of 2 million Libyan dinars for anyone who captures Gadhafi and from another hand, the National Transitional Council announces that anyone from his inner circle who kills Gadhafi or captures him, shall receive amnesty from the community,” the British newspaper said Jalil told reporters at a news conference in Benghazi.
“Gadhafi has not requested a peaceful exit until this moment and we do not object to his departure after he announces his relinquishing of power, and we do not object to his departure as long as any country will accept to take him because then it would fall under international law.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department renewed its warning to U.S. citizens against travel to Libya, and recommendation that U.S. citizens in the African nation depart immediately because the fighting there continues.
The Hungarian government, acting through its Embassy in Tripoli, serves as the protecting power for U.S. interests in Libya, the State Department said.
Saadi Gadhafi, a son of the elusive Libyan leader, wrote in an e-mail to CNN that “I have authority” to negotiate a cease-fire. CNN said the communication appeared authentic and resembled previous correspondence.
Pro-Gadhafi forces hit back at Libyan rebels in several volatile pockets across Tripoli earlier Wednesday, including near the city’s international airport.
While rebels control the hotly contested Tripoli International Airport, fierce fighting took place in an area east of it, raising speculation loyalist forces might be protecting a high-profile figure in the vicinity, CNN reported.
Rebel leaders said they plan to move key ministries to Tripoli as Gadhafi, whose exact whereabouts remained unknown, called on Libyans to “eliminate the criminals.”
Rebel leaders claimed they control about 90 percent of the country and were close to a “new Libya,” but Gadhafi forces still control some areas, CNN said.
Gadhafi, in an audio message that could not be authenticated, called on Libyans “to clear the city of Tripoli and eliminate the criminals, traitors and rats.”
“They are hiding between the families and inside the civilian houses,” the message said. “It’s your duty to enter these houses and take them out.”
Gadhafi also purportedly said he had “been out a bit in Tripoli discreetly, without being seen. It did not feel like Tripoli had fallen or someone had marched into it.”
Besides deaths among rebel and government forces, civilians have been wounded, “which is quite a concern for us,” said Robin Waudo, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Tripoli. He said he could not release a casualty toll.
Also, some health workers in Tripoli were staying away from work because of the security situation, Waudo said.
Rebel leaders also spent Wednesday explaining why they had reported Saif Gadhafi’s capture earlier after he had appeared on Libyan television, mocking them, The New York Times reported. Rebel leaders said there was a misunderstanding during their discussions with the International Criminal Court, which has issued arrest warrants for Saif Gadhafi and his father, along with the regime’s intelligence minister, alleging the trio committed crimes against humanity.
A growing number of countries are recognizing the rebels’ National Transitional Council as Libya’s rightful government and have announced they would unfreeze seized Gadhafi assets, CNN said. However, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he only would recognize a Libyan regime led by his ally, Gadhafi.
Shammam said release of money frozen in international banks is critical to the rebels’ success.
“We need to provide ourselves with a lot of necessities and we cannot do this without money,” he said.
The French government said President Nicolas Sarkozy would meet rebel Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril Wednesday in Paris, the Times reported.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, whose country opposed NATO airstrikes, was said to be calling for negotiations because Gadhafi retained influence and power. But he did say he will consider establishing relations with the rebels if they can demonstrate enough strength to put Libya on a democratic footing, Interfax said.