Gaddafis sons propose a transition to democratic set up

Tripoli/Washington: Hundreds of rebel fighters were pulled out by sea as Muammar Gaddafi`s forces were on the verge of overrunning the key western city of Misrata after routing all opposition attacks on the eastern front, as the country`s strongman and his sons appeared to be looking for a way out of the conflict.

Turkish aid ships bought hundreds of wounded including rebel fighters from Misrata to the rebel held port of Benghazi and the sailors were quoted by `Al Jazeera` as saying that the rescue ships were attacked by Gaddafi`s snipers.

"The city appears to be in a lockdown. It is surrounded on all sides by tanks and forces of Gaddafi and mortar fire and rockets are raining down on city centre", the pan Arab Channel quoted the sailors as saying.

Gaddafi`s forces have encircled the city, 215 km east of Tripoli for almost three weeks now and though they have been targeted by air strikes launched by US, British, and French jets, the siege has not been broken.

The government forces have also repulsed strong rebel bids to recapture the strategic oil town of Brega, ambushing last night an opposition offensive with heavy casualties.

A regrouped rebels were making a renewed bid to storm into the city, which has changed hands several times over the past few weeks.

With his tank columns and mobile forces beating back all rebel attacks in the east and the west, Muammar Gaddafi, his sons and close aides were reported to be looking for a way out of the conflict.

Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said after a meeting in Athens between the Prime Minister and a high level Libyan envoy that Gaddafi`s regime was looking "for a solution".

His comments came as `New York Times` reported that at least two sons of Gaddafi were proposing a transition to a constitutional democracy in Libya that would include their father`s ouster from power.

`The Times` said Gaddafi`s two sons Saif and Saadi were proposing the takeover by Saif, the Libyan strongman`s two other sons Khamis and Mutuassim were opposing it saying they wanted a fight to the finish.

The paper said, Gaddafi was leaning on his two younger sons and appeared to be willing to go along with them.

Khamis and Mutuassim are considered hardliners, while Khamis leads a fearsome militia focussed on repressing internal decisions, the other son is a national security advisor also commands his own militia.

The proposals by Gaddafi`s sons are the latest turn in a drama played between Saif and his father, as the son has alternately pushed forward with calls for political reforms and then pulled back.

Al Jazeera, quoting western intelligence sources said that the proposals may be coming forth because the Gaddafi`s forces may be feeling the pressure from two weeks of allied air strikes that have severely diminished the advantage in equipment of the Gaddafi`s militia.

However, the Libyan opposition rejected proposed transition under Gaddafi`s son.

The developments came as US agreed to extend air strikes in Libya for another week as part of western coalition.

NATO officials in Brussels, BBC said that US military would however pull out its war planes from today from frontline missions and shift to a supporting role in the Libyan conflict.