Updated 7:45 p.m. edt
The U.S. weighed in today on the African Union's proposal that apparently would keep Moammar Gadhafi in power, saying Washington remains in favor of the Libyan dictator stepping down.
"Look, we want to see the departure of Col. Gadhafi... that’s clearly still our demand. And in fact, we saw that the (Transitional National Council) opposition also called for his departure," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
"We’ve said it’s our bottom line. It’s a nonnegotiable demand," Toner reiterated. "We believe he needs to depart power. He needs to step down. He’s delegitimized as a leader."
Update 4:15 p.m. edt
NATO is prepared to recognize a legitimate ceasefire agreement in Libya, but not as long as Moammar Gadhafi's forces are killing civilians, the alliance's top civilian official said today in Brussels.
All indications are Gadhafi's forces are still killing innocent bystanders with their artillery, snipers and security forces, recent eyewitness reports and human rights monitors have shown.
"Our operational tempo will be determined by this clear goal to protect civilians against any attack," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
NATO welcomed the African Union's effort to seek a ceasefire, but appeared to leave it to the rebels to say whether it was acceptable or not. The rebels rejected the offer, despite an unmovable stalemate in the fighting, citing its failure to call for Gadhafi's departure.
"Since the start of the crisis, NATO has been in constant touch with the African Union as well as other regional and international organizations," Rasmussen said. "I want to be clear: There can be no solely military solution to the crisis in Libya. NATO welcomes all contributions to the broad international effort to stop the violence against the civilian population. Any ceasefire must be credible and verifiable."
NATO aircraft destroyed 49 tanks, nine armored personnel carriers, three anti-aircraft guns and four ammunition bunkers during its much-ballyhooed renewed air campaign, AFP reported.
A day after winning a fierce battle for Ajdabiya, Libyan rebels swiftly rejected today a ceasefire agreement proposed by the African Union that would leave Moammar Gadhafi in power.
"The African Union initiative does not include the departure of Gaddafi and his sons from the Libyan political scene, therefore it is outdated," rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said at a news conference in Benghazi.
"We cannot negotiate the blood of our martyrs," Jabril said. "We will die with them or be rewarded with victory."
“Gadhafi must leave immediately if he wants to survive," Jalil added.
African Union delegates took the ceasefire deal to the rebels a day after first meeting with Gadhafi, who has so far failed to agree to pull his troops ouit of the cities. The deal would have a peacekeeping force put in the country until both sides work out a permanent agreement, Reuters reported.
The African Union said only that agreed to hold talks “with the view to adopting and implementing the political reforms necessary for the elimination of the causes of the current crisis,” Bloomberg reported.
NATO warplanes over the weekend propelled the rebels to victory in Ajdabiya and helped repel Gadhafi forces in fighting in Misurata, as well. Gadhafi forces lost at least 25 tanks to NATO strikes, the rebels said.