Libya offers to pull army out of cities if rebels do the same

The Libyan government said Thursday that it would pull its army out of cities if rebels did the same, while a spokesman called President Obama “delusional” for saying in a speech that Moammar Gaddafi’s 41-year rule over Libya would soon come to an end.

The government’s offer, which the spokesman described as going further than it had before, was made on the condition that NATO stop its attacks on Libyan military targets, and it remained unclear Thursday evening how viable the proposal was.

In March, the Libyan government declared a cease-fire but continued fighting. Rebel forces have also been cautious about agreeing to cease-fires.

“We are prepared to withdraw our army from our cities,” said Moussa Ibrahim, the chief spokesman for the Libyan government.

Also Thursday, Gaddafi made a brief appearance on Libyan state television in a meeting that Ibrahim said took place in Tripoli that day.

Late Thursday evening, a NATO airstrike targeted the civilian port of Tripoli, and reporters were taken by the government to see a small ship in flames. A government minder said the boat was a private yacht, but from a distance, it appeared to be a military ship docked in between two much larger civilian cargo ships.

A government official told the Associated Press that the vessel was a warship docked for repairs.

Mohammed Rashid, general manager of the Tripoli port, told the Associated Press that five coast guard ships were also hit. The craft were patrolling Libyan waters for boats trying to head for Europe.

The strike follows a call last weekend from the head of Britain’s military, Gen. David Richards, to broaden the range of targets NATO would bomb.

The government did not immediately have information on whether anyone had been injured in the airstrike.

Michael Birnbaum is The Post’s Moscow bureau chief. He previously served as the Berlin correspondent and an education reporter.
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