TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who once vowed to die fighting on Libyan soil, now wants to face international justice instead and avoid any chance of meeting the same grisly end as his father, Libyan officials said.
An official of the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) said on Wednesday that Saif al-Islam, the only one of Muammar Gaddafi’s eight children still on the run, had proposed surrendering to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has indicted him for war crimes.
Surrender by 39-year-old Saif al-Islam would close another chapter in the four-decade history of Gaddafi family rule, as the United Nations discusses an end to its Libyan mandate that allowed NATO to bomb the country and help rebels to take power.
He was widely seen as Muammar Gaddafi’s favored son and his heir apparent.
Saif al-Islam wanted to surrender to the Dutch-based ICC with his relative, former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, said Abdel Majid Mlegta, an official of the NTC which overran the last Muammar Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte a week ago.
“They are proposing a way to hand themselves over to The Hague,” said Mlegta.
The ICC indicted Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam and Senussi for their roles in using force to try to put down the uprising which began in February.
An ICC spokesman said it had no confirmation of any talks about Saif al-Islam’s surrender.
NTC officials have said Saif al-Islam is hiding in Libya’s southern desert after failing to find a safe haven in a neighboring country like Algeria or Niger, which have offered refuge to the other four Gaddafi children who survived the eight-month civil war.
Any surrender would mark a U-turn by Saif al-Islam, an internationally well-connected philanthropist and liberal reformer who turned abruptly into a soldier ready to die rather than capitulate when rebels rose up against his father.
“We fight here in Libya; we die here in Libya,” he told Reuters Television in an interview earlier this year.
He now appears to prefer the prospect of a Dutch prison cell rather than risk falling into the hands of NTC forces.
NTC fighters seized Muammar Gaddafi last week after they overran his hometown of Sirte. Within hours he was dead, although it remains unclear who killed him, and his rotting corpse was put on public display for four days before being buried in a secret desert grave on Tuesday.
At the United Nations, envoys said the Security Council planned to end U.N. authorization this week for a no-fly zone and NATO intervention in Libya despite calls from the NTC for it to wait.
The Security Council made the authorization in March to protect Libyans from the forces that Muammar Gaddafi had deployed to suppress pro-democracy uprisings across the country.
Libya’s people were “looking forward to terminating the no-fly zone over Libya as well as terminating the mandate accorded by Security Council resolution 1973 to protect civilians as soon as possible,” Libyan Deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told the 15-nation council on Wednesday.
“In accordance with the initial assessments, the date of October 31 is a logical date to terminate this mandate,” he said.
But he said the NTC had not yet made an official decision on whether to request termination of the U.N. mandate, which authorized members of NATO and other U.N. member states to take “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians.
NATO bombing prevented Muammar Gaddafi’s forces from taking the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and allowed often disorganized rebel units to eventually control the whole county.
Dabbashi said the government needed more time to assess the security situation in Libya and its ability to monitor its borders.
Western diplomats said issues the NTC had suggested it would like NATO to help with, including border security, fell outside the U.N. mandate to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone.
“The job was to protect civilians and from NATO’s point of view, that mission has been accomplished,” a diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “There’s no point in delaying termination of the mandate.”
(Additional reporting by Samia Nakhoul in Dubai, Regan Doherty in Doha, Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations and David Brunnstrom in Brussels; Writing by David Stamp; Editing by Ralph Gowling)
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