Gadhafi forces shell besieged town of Misrata

Gadhafi forces shell besieged town of Misrata

Attack after Libyan leader accepts peace plan to end civil war

Al-Jazeera television quoted a rebel spokesman as saying that five people died and 20 were wounded in Misrata, a lone rebel bastion in western Libya, which has been under siege for more than six weeks.

Rebels in Misrata told Reuters that Gadhafi’s forces fired Russian-made Grad rockets into the city, where conditions for civilians are said to be desperate.

The insurgents said they would accept no plan that allowed Gadhafi to stay in power and prepared to advance on the eastern front after repelling a major government assault on Sunday against their town of Ajdabiyah.Prospects for a ceasefire looked remote.

South African President Jacob Zuma, head of an African Union (AU) peace mission, said early on Monday that Gadhafi had accepted a peace “roadmap”, including a ceasefire, after talks in Tripoli.

A spokesman in the rebel capital of Benghazi said the opposition would look at the plan but Gadhafi must end his 41-year rule.“The Libyan people have made it very clear that Gadhafi must step down, but we will consider the proposal once we have more details, and respond,” spokesman Mustafa Gheriani told Reuters.

Libyan officials have repeatedly said that Gadhafi, who holds no official state position, will not quit. The AU delegation went to Benghazi to confer with rebel leaders on Monday and was met by more than 2,000 demonstrators holding banners reading: “African Union take Gadhafi with you” and “Gaddafi has committed genocide”.

Officials from Nato, which is bombing Libyan government armour under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians, said they took note of the AU proposal but the alliance would continue operations while civilians were at risk. “It does not appear that this indication of a peace deal has any substance at this point,” said one Nato official in reference to the shelling of Misrata.

The AU does not have a good track record in brokering peace deals, having failed recently to end conflict or disputes in Somalia, Madagascar and Ivory Coast.

“The issue of Gadhafi stepping down from any political position is a closed issue ... Muammar Gadhafi does not hold a position of power,” Abdel Monem al-Lamoushi, a government spokesman, said.