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Friday, August 26, 2011

Soccer-playing Qaddafi son seeks to negotiate ceasefire in Libya


(Al Saadi Al Qaddafi (Source: Mafiatoday.com)
By James M. Dorsey

Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Qaddafi’s soccer-playing son, Al Saadi Al Qaddafi, has reportedly offered to broker a ceasefire with NATO and the United States in an email to a CNN correspondent.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson said he received an email on Wednesday from Mr. Qaddafi, saying that he was authorized to negotiate a deal.

"I will try to save my city Tripoli and 2 millions of people living there ... otherwise Tripoli will be lost forever like Somalia,” Mr. Qaddafi said, referring to the civil war that has ravaged that East African state.  Without a cease-fire, Mr. Qaddafi said, "soon it will be a sea of blood."

The 38-year Qaddafi scion was reported earlier this week to have been captured by NATO-backed rebels after they entered the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Al Saadi, a businessman and the head of the Libyan soccer association, reportedly commanded a key brigade in the Libyan military.

Al Saadi apparently made no mention of talks with the rebels in his email. The rebel Transition National Council (TNC) had no immediate comment on the email.

Libyan government officials have made several cease-fire offers during the six-month revolt against Colonel Qaddafi’s 42-year rule. US and European officials said that several Libyan officials had reached out to them in recent days.

Colonel Qaddafi, whose whereabouts are not known after the rebels on Wednesday captured his compound in Tripoli has vowed to launch an insurgency against his opponents.

With the United States, Britain and Qatar assisting the rebels in their hunt for Mr. Qaddafi, it seems unlikely that they would be willing to negotiate with Al Saadi without a guarantee that his father would agree to either turn himself in or go into exile.

Al Saadi’s soccer career has been marked by brutality, political interference in the beautiful game and manipulation of matches. It highlights the use of the soccer pitch by Middle Eastern and North African autocrats like Colonel Qaddafi as a tool to improve their tarnished images and control popular discontent.

Al Saadi’s association with Libyan soccer meant that the prestige of the regime was on the line whenever the national team or Tripoli’s Al Ahly, which Al Aassdi owned, played. As a result, soccer was as much a political match as it was a competition in which politics rather than performance often dictated the outcome.

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer

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