October 20, 2014 / 4:39 PM / 3 years ago

Gaddafi cousin hopes to participate in Libyan peace talks

CAIRO (Reuters) - A cousin and former aide of Muammar Gaddafi said he wants to take part in proposed talks aimed at bringing together Libya’s warring parties, in a rare bid by a member of the ex-ruler’s inner-circle to regain influence.

Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, cousin of Libya's former president Muammar Gaddafi, talks during an interview with Reuters at his apartment in Cairo October 9, 2014. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

The Gaddafi family has kept a low profile since the 2011 uprising in which the leader was killed, ending 42 years of one-man rule. Rival armed groups have since battled for power, pushing the internationally-recognised government from the capital and raising fears of a full-scale civil war.

“I welcome the idea of having talks under the sponsorship of the United Nations outside Libya,” Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, Gaddafi’s cousin, told Reuters in Cairo where he lives in exile.

“We thank Algeria for hosting such a dialogue.” Gaddafi’s spokeswoman later confirmed that he wanted to attend the talks that have been proposed by Algiers which, like Cairo, fears that chaos in Libya could allow the vast country to become a base for Islamist militants.

No date or details have yet been given for the talks which would be a further step on from a U.N.-sponsored dialogue between Libya’s parliament and lawmakers that oppose its legitimacy.

The armed group from the western city of Misrata that seized the capital in August and set up a rival parliament is unlikely to welcome giving Gaddaf any say. The group says it acted in order to pre-empt a counter-revolution by Gaddafi officials.

Speaking in the reception hall of his luxury Cairo apartment, adorned with pictures of himself, Gaddafi and of Omar Mukhtar, a national hero who fought Italian colonial rulers, Gaddaf said he had no illusions of returning Libya to the past, but that elements of the former regime deserved to be heard.

“We don’t want to go back to the old regime,” he said.

“Two million Libyans live abroad. We didn’t participate in the (June) elections but despite this I support parliament,” said Gaddaf whose abundant dark curly hair lend him a notable resemblance to his late cousin.

ARAB CONNECTIONS

Hafed al Ghwell, a liberal political analyst, said that while Gaddaf was controversial he could speak for tribes and officials close to the former regime which have been sidelined.

“Gaddaf still has enormous influence among the old regime figures, including those still in the military, and wields a lot of influence among the tribes loyal to Gaddafi,” he said.

“He also has a lot of strong connections among Arab governments, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. as well as some European countries,” he said.

“I also believe that he is the most reasonable and politically astute of the senior Gaddafi regime figures, and the one who has consistently been calling for reconciliation.”

Analysts also say that integrating former Gaddafi-linked tribes, some of which are based in the south, could help secure sub-Saharan borders used by militants to smuggle weapons.

While Egypt’s elected president Mohamed Mursi was in power, Gaddaf spent more than a month in jail after Libya issued an arrest warrant accusing him of crimes against humanity. He was arrested after a shootout with police at his apartment.

“They were shooting at me while I was in my bedroom,” he said, showing bullet holes in the door. Egypt’s current government, elected after the military ousted Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood, has not sought to re-arrest him.

Gaddafi’s relatives have kept out of the limelight since 2011, mostly out of the country. Two of his sons are in jail in Libya while much of the family is scattered around the Middle East from Egypt to Oman. Another Gaddafi son was killed during the revolution.

Some Gaddafi regime officers have reappeared to join the chaotic battle for control, according to Libyan media.

Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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