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South African leader to visit Gadhafi, push for cease-fire and talks

By the CNN Wire Staff
Anti-Gadhafi rebels have taken control of several Libyan cities, including Misrata, Benghazi and Ajdabiya.
Anti-Gadhafi rebels have taken control of several Libyan cities, including Misrata, Benghazi and Ajdabiya.
  • NEW: South Africa's president makes his second trip to Tripoli in recent weeks
  • NEW: The aim is to stop hostilities and spur peace talks, an African Union official says
  • The rebel leader says, "We are in desperate need of money"
  • More than 25 rebels in Libya are wounded in an attack near rebel-held Misrata

Dafniya, Libya (CNN) -- South African President Jacob Zuma is set to meet embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Monday, his second visit to Tripoli since unrest started roiling the North African country.

Unlike many other world leaders and alliances, Zuma, his African National Congress party and the African Union -- which he will represent on his trip, and which Gadhafi himself once led -- have not called for the longtime Libyan leader to step down. In fact, it has criticized the NATO airstrikes targeting government forces.

Noureddine Mezni, an African Union spokesman, said the mission is to call for the cessation of all hostilities, followed by peace talks between the warring parties. The continental organization has helped mediate such talks before, including ones in Kenya and Zimbabwe that left the ruling powers still in control.

Zuma's first visit to Tripoli in April was launched with similar intentions, but did not achieve its desired results. On Saturday, rebel leaders marked the 100th day of an uprising they say was launched over concerns about lack of freedom, democracy and other concerns related to Gadhafi's 42-year rule.

Its leader, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, told CNN on Saturday that his opposition movement is running out of money -- at the same time it has achieved key victories militarily and diplomatically, including Russia joining others in calling for Gadhafi's exit.

The chairman of the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council did not suggest in an exclusive interview that the rebels would pull back in their fight against Gadhafi's government. But he pleaded for more resources so that the effort -- which is being backed by many Western nations -- could be successful.

"We are in desperate need of money," said Jalil, a former justice minister under Gadhafi. "We really need money. This is clear. We are going through a financial crisis."

The opposition movement's stature has been bolstered by the sale of a shipment of oil to China for $160 million, Jalil said. Still, he said the financial situation remains precarious for now -- especially with rebels' limited access to more oil.

"People are patient and have been able to manage their lives at minimal living standards," he said. "The problem is the prices have gone up."

Jalil's forces, meanwhile, continued to fend off attacks Sunday near the rebel-held city of Misrata.

Gadhafi's forces fired mortars and guns in an apparent effort to break through a stalemated line west of the city, CNN's Ben Wedeman reported from the scene. Rebels returned fire, and while some pulled back to seek cover from the incoming artillery shells, others moved toward the front line near the town of Dafniya, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) west of Misrata.

More than 25 opposition fighters have been wounded in the battle so far, medics at a field hospital told CNN. They did not report any deaths, but fighters returning from the battle said two men had been killed.

Ambulances continued bringing wounded in for treatment.

Libya has been in the throes of a civil war for months, since Gadhafi dug in his heels against popular efforts to force him out of power as anti-government protests sweep the Arab world this year.

NATO is operating under a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of any means -- with the exception of foreign occupation -- to protect civilians from attack or the threat of attack. It has been conducting airstrikes targeting Gadhafi's military resources.

Russia has not come on board fully supporting those strikes. But on Friday,President Dmitry Medvedev changed Moscow's position and called for Gadhafi to step down.

Ragtag rebels holding down Zintan
Mistrata hospital hell
  • Libya
  • Misrata
  • Moammar Gadhafi

Medvedev's statement, echoing the stance of American and European leaders, appeared to indicate a closing diplomatic window for the Libyan strongman.

In his interview with CNN, Jalil applauded Russia's move. He said rebels wouldn't seek arms or economic aid from Russia, adding the council only wanted political support and help in expediting International Monetary Fund loans.

Most valuable, he said, would be moving Gadhafi's government closer to a political solition "so no more blood will be spilled."

"We know very well that the Russians have relations with Moammar Gadhafi's regime, and perhaps these relations will be used in the benefit of the revolutionaries in terms of finding an exit strategy for Gadhafi," Jalil said.

He reiterated that the transitional council will "agree to any cease-fire that leads to removing Moammar Gadhafi. Anything short of that is unacceptable."

Jalil said Saturday he has offered amnesty to Gadhafi loyalists who defect before the demise of the regime, but reiterated that there will be "no negotiation for any solution until Gadhafi's departure." Once that happens, elections and a constitutional referendum will be held within a year.

Marking what he called the 100th day of the nation's civil war on Saturday, the rebel leader voiced optimism even given the movement's financial straits.

"We see victories emerging at both national and international levels," he said. "We should celebrate what our heroic sons have accomplished in Misrata and the Nafusa mountains, as well as applaud the wide international support for our revolution."

CNN's Sara Sidner, Nkepile Mabuse, Amir Ahmed, Raja Razek and Nima Elbagir contributed to this report.

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