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France: Cease-fire deal could include Gadhafi remaining in Libya

By Amir Ahmed, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The deal would call for Gadhafi to stay out of Libyan politics
  • Rebels' advances slowed by landmines
  • Gadhafi's forces surround an oil refinery in al-Brega

(CNN) -- France may consider a post-war Libya with Moammar Gadhafi remaining in the country if he quits politics as part of a cease-fire deal to end the conflict with the NATO-backed rebels, the French foreign minister said Wednesday.

"One of the possibilities is that he (Gadhafi) remains in Libya," Alain Juppe told French news channel LCI. "But on the condition that he stays away from Libyan political life. This is what we are waiting for before we begin the political process for a cease-fire."

State-run Libyan TV played an audio message from Gadhafi Tuesday saying that he will never surrender. He also called on civilians and armed citizens to march on rebel territories in the east and west of the country to "cleanse it from mercenaries and traitors."

Meanwhile, the war intensified in the eastern part of the country. Libyan rebels have completely surrounded a strategic oil hub in the region but face an almost impossible task of dismantling thousands of landmines planted by Gadhafi forces, a Libyan rebel military spokesman told CNN Wednesday.

"Most of our casualties since Thursday have been due to landmine explosions," Col. Ahmed Banni said.

Rebel forces sent an expeditionary unit into al-Brega earlier this week after clearing a path from mines and found that most of the Gadhafi forces there have gathered in the industrial section of the city near an oil refinery.

Libyan TV showed video over the last two days of Gadhafi loyalists claiming to be in al-Brega and denied reports of rebels' taking over the city.

"Controlling al-Brega is so crucial for us and Gadhafi," Banni said. "He knows that this is his last real post and its fall will mark his end."

At least 20 rebel fighters have been killed since Thursday as their forces inch closer to re-take the city, he added.

"The United States must intervene forcefully. Many Libyans and even people on the streets are asking the United States to help clear those landmines using its high technology -- even from air -- because these landmines have three fuses so even if we cut out one fuse, it can still explode," Banni explained.

Rebels claim that intercepted radio communications between Gadhafi loyalists in al-Brega indicate that they have low morale and are running out of food.

On Wednesday, NATO helicopters bombed military convoys that left Sirte to bring supplies to Gadhafi loyalists in al-Brega, the spokesman said.