Qaddafi's sons offer to usher in democracy

Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, son of Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi, flashes the V sign during a meeting with youths, March 10, 2011 in Tripoli.
MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images
Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi addresses youth in Tripoli
Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, son of Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi, flashes the V sign during a meeting with youths, March 10, 2011 in Tripoli.
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Two of Muammar Qaddafi's own sons have reportedly put forward a proposal that would see the long-time Libyan ruler move aside to "make way for a transition to a constitutional democracy" -- which would, according to the plan, be ushered in by one of those sons.

The New York Times reports that Qaddafi's high-profile son Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, who has emerged as his father's television representative since the leader largely disappeared from public gaze as the West got involved with his regime's fight against rebels, would direct the transition to democracy. There is no indication how long that process might take under the direction of the same family which has ruled Libya with unchecked power for decades.

The Times report, which cites various unnamed Libyan officials and a diplomat said to be familiar with the proposal, says it also remains unclear whether the 68-year-old Colonel himself was willing to go along with the plan.

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If he is on-board, as the report suggests he may be, it shows an increasingly isolated ruler forced to rely ever more exclusively on his own family for backing as government ministers and advisers abandon him in support of the rebels.

If he's not given his sons proxy to plan his slow exit from power, then the proposal reveals a fairly serious rift within Col. Qaddafi's own family. He has seven sons, and at least one off them is said to be a long-time rival to Seif and competitor for the title off heir-apparent.

Seif al-Islam and his brother Saadi el-Qaddafi, "want to move toward change for the country" without their father, a source said to be close to the brothers told the newspaper. "They have hit so many brick walls with the old guard, and if they have the go-ahead, they will bring the country up quickly."

However, the rebel movement -- and by default, its hesitant backers in the West -- have remained insistent that any end to the crisis involve the immediate removal of the entire Qaddafi family from power.

"This is the beginning position of the opposition, and this is the beginning position of the Libyan government," the unnamed diplomat familiar with the proposal told the Times. "But the bargaining has yet to commence."

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.