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ICC confirms indirect talks with Saif Qaddafi

AMSTERDAM - The International Criminal Court is in indirect contact with slain Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam about the possibility of surrendering for trial, the chief prosecutor said Friday.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo told The Associated Press talks are being held through intermediaries whom he did not identify. He also said he did not know exactly where Saif al-Islam Qaddafi is.

The prosecutor said he believes unidentified mercenaries also are offering to find refuge for Qaddafi in an African country that does not cooperate with the court. He mentioned Zimbabwe as a likely possibility, and said the court was in contact with other countries to prevent his escape by denying overflight permission to any plane carrying him.

The 39-year-old son Said al-Islam was indicted in June for inciting crowds to murder during the early stages of the Libyan revolution.

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"We are having informal conversations with Saif Qaddafi in order to see if he can be surrendered to the court," Moreno-Ocampo said in a telephone call from The Hague.

"We know he has a different option because apparently there is a group of mercenaries willing to move him to a country, probably Zimbabwe," the prosecutor said. Some of the mercenaries may be from South Africa, he said.

Qaddafi was pressing for clarifications about his fate should he be acquitted, and Moreno-Ocampo said he has made it clear to the fugitive that he could ask the judges to send him to a country other than Libya.

"He says he is innocent and he will prove his innocence," the prosecutor said.

Saif al-Islam reportedly entered crossed into Niger from Libya Thursday, according to unnamed official in Libya's transitional government.

"There is a contact with Mali and with South Africa and with another neighboring country to organize his exit ... He hasn't got confirmation yet, he's still waiting," the official told Reuters.

Earlier Thursday, an adviser to Niger's president said that Qaddafi's intelligence chief, who is wanted by Interpol, crossed through Niger into Mali. The official said at the time that Saif al-Islam was following the same route.

Meanwhile, NATO has announced it will end its air campaign over Libya next Monday, following the decision of the U.N. Security Council to lift the no-fly zone and end military action to protect civilians.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Friday that the operation was "one of the most successful in NATO history," one which was able to wind down quickly following the death of former Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

Monitoring air patrols are expected to continue until Monday to make sure there are no more threats to civilians.

NATO's 26,000 sorties, including 9,600 strike missions, destroyed about 5,900 military targets since they started on March 31.

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