Idea Kadhafi will step down ‘ridiculous,’ says son 

The charred hand of a pro-Kadhafi fighter is seen as Libyan rebel fighters buried him in a communal grave near the western gate of Ajdabiya.

Libyan rebels rejected an African Union initiative for a truce accepted by Moamer Kadhafi, and said the only solution was the strongman’s ouster, an idea his son called “ridiculous.”

The rebel rejection came after NATO chiefs warned that any deal must be “credible and verifiable,” and as alliance warplanes were again in action against heavy Kadhafi weaponry pounding Ajdabiya and Misrata.

A delegation of leaders mandated by the African Union (AU) to stop the fighting in Libya arrived late Monday in the Algerian capital for two days of talks with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, APS news agency reported.

“We are working to find a solution to this complex question and we are continuing our efforts to get out of this crisis,” Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was quoted as saying on arrival.

He was accompanied by Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso, AU Commission chairman Jean Ping and Ugandan Foreign Minister Henry Oryem Okello, APS said.

Kadhafi has accepted a proposed “roadmap” calling for an immediate ceasefire, boosted humanitarian aid and dialogue between the two sides, but the insurgents have rejected the plan, saying Kadhafi must go immediately.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also stuck to US demands for Kadhafi to step down and leave Libya as part of a peaceful transition, but declined to comment on the proposed African Union deal before being fully briefed.

She told a news conference in Washington however that “there needs to be a transition that reflects the will of the Libyan people and the departure of Kadhafi from power and from Libya.”

Kadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam admitted that it was time for “new blood” in Libya, but called talk of his father stepping down “ridiculous.”

“The Libyan Guide (Kadhafi) does not want to control everything. He is at an advanced age. We would like to bring a new elite of young people onto the scene to lead the country and direct local affairs,” he told France’s BFM TV.

“We need new blood — that is what we want for the future — but talk of the Guide leaving is truly ridiculous,” he added.

In Benghazi, rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil said the African initiative did not go far enough.

“From the first day the demand of our people has been the ouster of Kadhafi and the fall of his regime,” he said.

“Kadhafi and his sons must leave immediately if they want to be safe… Any initiative that does not include the people’s demand, the popular demand, essential demand, we cannot possibly recognise.”

NATO, meanwhile, said it struck more loyalist targets around Ajdabiya and the besieged port of Misrata on Sunday and Monday, destroying 11 Kadhafi regime tanks and five military vehicles.

The regime warned that any foreign intervention under the pretext of bringing aid into Misrata would be met by “staunch armed resistance,” the official JANA news agency quoted the foreign ministry as saying.

Diplomats in Brussels said on Friday that the EU was gearing up to deploy military assets for a humanitarian mission to evacuate wounded from Misrata and deliver food, water and medicine to the city.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that warplanes will keep pounding Libyan forces as long as civilians are at risk.

“I would also like to stress that the guiding principle for us will be how to implement the UN Security Council resolution fully, that is to protect the civilians against any attack,” he said.

Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, a spokesman for the rebels’ Transitional National Council, welcomed the African Union efforts, but demanded Kadhafi’s overthrow.

“The people must be allowed to go into the streets to express their opinion and the soldiers must return to their barracks,” he told AFP.

“If people are free to come out and demonstrate in Tripoli, then that’s it. I imagine all of Libya will be liberated within moments.”

He also demanded the release of hundreds of people missing since the outbreak of the popular uprising and believed to be held by Kadhafi’s forces.

South African President Jacob Zuma said earlier that Tripoli had accepted the African Union plan for a ceasefire.

“We also in this communique are making a call on NATO to cease the bombings to allow and to give a ceasefire a chance,” he said.

The rebels, however, doubted Kadhafi would adhere to a truce.

“The world has seen these offers of ceasefires before and within 15 minutes (Kadhafi) starts shooting again,” Abdulmolah said.

The rebels have said they would negotiate a political transition to democracy with certain senior regime figures, but only on the condition that Kadhafi and his sons leave Libya.

Meanwhile, Libya’s former foreign minister Mussa Kussa, who is in Britain after defecting from Moamer Kadhafi’s regime, told the BBC Monday that the restive nation could become a “new Somalia” if civil war broke out.

No going back 

A boy begs for alms in Kabul

It took Terry Gordon all of five months to decide Afghanistan was not the place for him to be, the rich financial gains notwithstanding.

Gordon left Vietnam after five years, leaving behind an expectant Vietnamese wife to work as Manager for the Supreme Group of companies which supplies food for the 200,000 NATO troops stationed there.

With, as the New York Times recently reported, “the Obama administration …increasingly emphasizing the idea that the United States will have forces in Afghanistan until at least the end of 2014,” there seemed to be no end to another protracted conflict initiated by the United States.

As one of only about 50 white businessmen in Kabul, Gordon felt conspicuously exposed to the dangers of a violence-racked nation.

Speaking with Thanh Nien Weekly shortly after the family reunion on his return to Saigon, Gordon said he had decided to stay on in safe and secure Vietnam, having got an offer to head the IP Software and Business Development division of ATI Telecom.

“I feel guilty not going back to Kabul because I have friends there,” he said ruing the fact that he’d left without saying goodbye.

Gordon’s wife Ta Thuy Ha said she had advised him to stay away from army people and wear clothes like the locals.

“To avoid worrying too much, I did not read about the war on Afghanistan during the time my husband was there. We chatted every night and SMSed during the day. He told me everything except the trips to the South or the North of Afghanistan,” she said.

Ha is not surprised with Gordon’s decision. “After a while he knew it’s not worth staying on in Afghanistan. He told me that whenever he had to travel by car within the city he had a terrible feeling that he did not know what will happen.”

Terry Gordon, one of 50 white businessmen in Kabul, at Mazar-I-Sharing, a city in Afganistan. He has just returned to Saigon after working in Afghanistan for five months. Photos courtesy of Terry Gordon.

Gordon said that in Kabul, he could earn three times as much money as in Ho Chi Minh City, with a 12-month contract netting a six-figure income. With that kind of money, he could have bought an apartment in HCMC soon. But Afghanistan taught him there were things more important than making a quick buck.

Gordon is a former administrative officer in the Australian air force. He came to Vietnam on a holiday and later returned to work as a tour leader for Intrepid, an Australian travel agent in Vietnam.

Gordon said that his wife let him go to Kabul because she knew she had no option. “I missed the time in the army. By the way, I promised her to come back in one year,” he said.

Surviving in Kabul

“The thing that scared me the most was not the Taliban army but kidnappers. White people are prime targets for kidnapping. (And I cannot see who is Taliban and who is not.)“

According to Gordon, wealthy Afghanistan families who could afford to leave have already left. Those who stayed back are the ones who could not afford to leave.

In Afghanistan, he said everyone was out to get what one could and everybody was there for the money.

“They are lovely people but they cannot trust others. They have been constantly at war for hundreds of years,” said Gordon.

He said that to avoid attention, he never used the army car and did not hire bodyguards. He always covered himself with a big blanket just like the Afghans.

I always took along a small package with passport, passport copies, clothes, water and matches in case I had to leave quickly,” he said.

Another planet

Gordon said when he first saw the desert mountains ranges with small green valleys, he felt he was landing on Mars.

Working as an operations manager for the Supreme Group which provides food, catering, logistics, clothes and aviation services to NATO, Gordon said he worked with people from different countries.

To survive there, one has to be good at dealing with people, communication and understanding different cultures, he said.

Gordon said the only thing that made him feel good during the time in Kabul was that the company employed 1,000 local people which helped them support their families. And when his staff met him they put their hands on their hearts and said “thank you.”

Early on in his assignment, Gordon found, much to his dismay, that he had to move from one place to another, which scared him.

He lived in a container tank; in an electronic world, with bodyguards, and protected by high fences, “just like a prison.”

“I counted the days and months and the last month lasted so long. And for the last day, I was counting every hour”. He was lucky that his place was never broken into, but he knows people tried to.

Gordon showed Thanh Nien Weekly pictures of children with old faces as if they’d never had a childhood. He said there were always children offering to take care of his car. At first there were around five street children and when he came back there were around 25 kids waiting for money from him.

He thought of sending Vietnamese people to work in Afghanistan, but reconsidered later. “I would feel guilty if I encouraged people to go where they could get hurt,” he said.

Back in Vietnam, things have changed.

“Before he would get angry easily, but after his time in Kabul, he has become calmer. He has had a lot of time to reflect and now he appreciates life more,” said Ha.