Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Gaddafi’s daughter gives birth in Algeria

Gaddafi’s daughter gives birth in Algeria

ALGIERS-(AFP) – Muammer Gaddafi’s daughter gave birth to a baby girl in Algeria Tuesday as Algiers said it decided to grant safe haven to the wife and three children of the ousted Libyan leader for “strictly humanitarian reasons.”

“Aisha gave birth very early this morning. She had a little girl. Mother and daughter are doing fine,” said a government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Earlier Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Amar Belani insisted that Aisha, her brothers Mohammed and Hannibal, as well as their mother Safiya, Gaddafi’s second wife, were allowed into the country “for strictly humanitarian reasons.”

Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council criticised the announcement from Algeria, which has not recognised the NTC as Libya’s new authority, amid speculation that Algiers backed Gaddafi through the months-long conflict and is troubled by his downfall.

The newborn girl was named Safiya, after their grandmother, according to the daily Ennahar, which said the family crossed via the Tinkarine border post in the far south and was flown 400 kilometres (250 miles) northwest to Djanet, where Aisha was admitted to hospital.

The family was placed under house arrest in the desert town, the newspaper said.

“We have informed the Secretary General of the United Nations, the president of the (UN) Security Council and the president of the executive council of the NTC,” Belani said in an e-mail sent to AFP.

Belani was commenting on a request issued by the NTC for the return of the Gaddafi family members.

When the Algerian foreign ministry on Monday announced the arrival of the Gaddafi family, the rebels’ justice minister Mohammed al-Allagya told AFP that the Algerian authorities would be asked to send them back to Libya.

The spokesman of the rebel government, Mahmud Shammam, said on Monday evening that the NTC had been told by Algeria of the family’s arrival.

“We’d like those persons to come back,” Shammam said, adding that Algeria had given them a “pass” to go to a third country.

“Saving Gaddafi’s family is not an act we welcome and understand,” he told a press conference in Tripoli late on Monday.

“We can assure our neighbours that we want better relations with them … but we are determined to arrest and try the Gaddafi family and Gaddafi himself,” Shammam went on, saying the rebels guaranteed a “fair trial.”

Algeria stands apart from other north African nations like Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, which have all recognised the NTC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, leading some among the rebels to accuse Algiers of supporting the Gaddafi regime.

Pierre Vermeren, a French researcher at the African affairs centre in Bordeaux and expert in north African affairs, said ties were “more than cold because the Algerians do not recognise (the NTC) and for months there have been rumours of help by some elements of the Algerian army for the Gaddafi regime.”

“While the Algerians welcomed the fall of (Zine El Abidine) Ben Ali (in Tunisia in January), they didn’t seem happy with the fall of Gaddafi.

“(Algerian President Abdelaziz) Bouteflika has said nothing,” Vermeren pointed out.

With Gaddafi’s whereabouts still a mystery, there has been speculation that he is hiding out among tribal supporters in his birthplace, the coastal town of Sirte.

Rebels say they are negotiating with civic and tribal leaders to try to broker Sirte’s peaceful surrender.

Algeria has “since February been accused of supplying military aid to Gaddafi, particularly by providing planes to transport mercenaries,” said Didier Le Saout, a north African expert at Paris university.

“Algeria will be the state in the region with the worst relations with the new Libyan authorities.”

Mourad Benmehidi, Algeria’s ambassador to the UN, told the New York Times that the spouses of Gaddafi’s two sons and daughter also crossed into Algeria, along with several of their children.

Algeria has also closed its borders with Libya in the far south, El Watan reported on its website, quoting Algerian officials.

Algiers, according to the report, wants to block Gaddafi loyalist fighters from fleeing into Algeria to avoid further strain relations in its ties with the NTC.

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