Libyan swap of detainees may signal broader talks
June 24, 2011 - Reuters:
BENGHAZI, Libya, June 24 (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has released dozens of rebel supporters and allowed them to sail back to Benghazi on Friday in a move that could mark the beginning of broader talks between the adversaries.
In a transfer facilitated by the Red Cross, a ship carrying about 50 men detained by Gaddafi forces in western Libya docked in Benghazi’s harbour alongside hundreds of other refugees.
"These are mainly civilians…Among them there are 51 people who were detained in Tripoli but were released by the government there so we brought them back," said Dibeh Fakhr, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Benghazi.
Pointing at the vessel, festooned with opposition flags and a Red Cross banner, she said a total of several hundred people, including 66 former detainees, were scheduled to come back from Tripoli in two rotations.
In the other direction, 110 Tripoli residents trapped in the east would be allowed to sail to the capital, she said.
Rebel sources said the swap underlined Gaddafi’s weakness and willingness to discuss ways out of a war in the oil-rich North African nation that has been deadlocked since February.