AP Interview: Libya rebel says they seek democracy

BENGHAZI, Libya - (AP) - Libyan rebels want to install aparliamentary democracy in place of longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi,one of their top leaders said Sunday, dismissing Western fears thattheir movement could be hijacked by Islamic extremists.

Gadhafi's forces, meanwhile, pressed on with attacks Sundayagainst Misrata, the last key city in the western half of thecountry still largely under rebel control. Government troopsbesieged civilian areas for around two hours with Grad rockets,mortar shells and lined a main street with snipers, said a doctorin the city.

"Libyans as a whole - and I am one of them - want a civiliandemocracy, not dictatorship, not tribalism and not one based onviolence or terrorism," Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, vice chairman of theNational Provisional Council, said in an interview with TheAssociated Press.

The movement has faced questions about its character and goalsfrom many Western nations even as they delivered the internationalairstrikes that have pounded Gadhafi's military forces. So far, theairstrikes have not been enough to give rebel fighters the upperhand over Gadhafi's superior troops, and Western officials aredebating whether arming the rebels should be the next step.

In Washington, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee in theHouse of Representatives was among several key lawmakers cautioningthat the U.S. and its allies needed to know much more about therebel forces before providing them with weapons.

Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan, said on NBCtelevision's "Meet the Press" that there may be strains ofal-Qaida within the rebel ranks and the NATO-led coalition in thecampaign against Gadhafi should proceed with caution before armingthem.

Libya's opposition has said any extremists among their rankswould be few in number, and Gadhafi's own punishing campaignscrushed Islamic militants in the country years ago.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Sunday that hiscountry would neither arm the rebels nor send ground troops toLibya.

"We have taken no decision to arm the rebels, the opposition,the pro-democracy people - whatever one wants to call them," hetold the BBC.

A British diplomatic team arrived Saturday in the rebels' defacto capital of Benghazi in eastern Libya to speak to members ofthe opposition council to learn more about their aims, Britishofficials said Sunday.

While acknowledging the importance of Islam in Libyan society,Ghoga insisted that "there is no place for an Islamic state inLibya."

"Will we accept an extremist government? Never," he said,dressed in a pinstriped blue suit with a pin of Libya's pre-Gadhafiflag on his lapel.

"We will not accept radicalism, terrorism or dictatorship. Wewant a democratic state based on a multiparty system, the peacefultransfer of power, separation of powers, and for Libya to have,from the beginning, a constitution," he said.

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