Libyan govt says Gaddafi wont step down

Tripoli: The Libyan government on Tuesday said it was open to political reforms but rejected Western demands that country`s strongman Muammar Gaddafi step down, saying he was a unifying force and must stay in power to avoid a Somalia or Iraq-style power vacuum.

Gaddafi`s spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said that everything except the exit of the Libyan leader was negotiable, in first concrete comments from the beleaguered regime whose forces have been hit relentlessly by Western missiles and air strikes for weeks.

"The kind of political system which can be implemented in the country is negotiable. We can talk about it," he told reporters in the capital as rebel forces made a renewed push to recapture the oil town of Brega and the US military withdrew its fighter jets from an international air campaign over the war-torn north African country.

Quoting rebel spokesman, Al-Jazeera said, opposition forces had managed to push into the town seizing half of it.

The control of the oil town is vital to rebel stakes as the capture of the oil pipeline terminus, small refinery and the Mediterranean port could boost the opposition hunt for revenues.

The pan-Arab channel said the rebel forces stormed into the city after US and allied air strikes had hit Gaddafi`s defending tank column.

"The rebels are in the streets of new Brega, a largely residential town separated from the city`s oil refinery by a stretch of highway," the Al-Jazeera said.

The firm comment by the Libyan government spokesman that Gaddafi would not quit came after opposition rebels flatly rejected a reported peace deal that could have seen the dictators son Seif-ul-Islam taking over.

Terming Gaddafi as the "safety valve", the Libyan spokesman said his stay in power in the country was essential for the unity of nation`s tribes and peoples.

"His (Gaddafi) presence is a must to lead Libya to any transition to a democratic and transparent model," Ibrahim said.