(Adds detail, Government appeal)
* Spokesman says Gaddafi will quit if loses
* Proposal may drive wedge between NATO members
* Gov't says soccer team unaffected by players' defections
* Boat returns families to Tripoli from rebel territory
By Nick Carey
TRIPOLI, June 26 (Reuters) - The Libyan government on Sunday
renewed its offer to hold a vote on whether Muammar Gaddafi
should stay in power, a proposal unlikely to interest Gaddafi's
opponents but which could widen differences inside NATO.
Pressure is growing from some quarters within the alliance
to find a political solution, three months into a military
campaign which is costing NATO members billions of dollars, has
killed civilians, and has so far failed to topple Gaddafi.
Moussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for Gaddafi's administration,
told reporters in Tripoli the government was proposing a period
of national dialogue and an election overseen by the United
Nations and the African Union.
"If the Libyan people decide Gaddafi should leave he will
leave. If the people decide he should stay he will stay,"
But he said Gaddafi -- who has run the oil-producing country
since taking over in a military coup in 1969 -- would not go
into exile whatever happened. "Gaddafi is not leaving anywhere,
he is staying in this country," Ibrahim said.
The idea of holding an election was first raised earlier
this month by one of Gaddafi's sons, Saif al-Islam.
The proposal lost momentum when Libyan Prime Minister
Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi appeared to dismiss it. At the time,
it was also rejected by anti-Gaddafi rebels in the east of
Libya, and by Washington.
Many analysts say Gaddafi and his family have no intention
of relinquishing power. Instead, they say, the Libyan leader is
holding out the possibility of a deal to try to widen cracks
that have been emerging in the alliance ranged against him.
The election proposal could find a more receptive audience
this time around, especially after a NATO bomb landed on a house
in Tripoli on June 19, killing several civilians.
After that incident, alliance-member Italy said it wanted a
political settlement, and also said that the civilian casualties
threaten NATO's credibility.
Libyan government forces have been fighting rebels, backed
by NATO air power, since Feb. 17, when thousands of people rose
up in a rebellion against his rule.
The revolt has turned into the bloodiest of the Arab Spring
uprisings sweeping the Middle East.
Rebels now control the eastern third of the country, and
some enclaves in the West. They have been unable though to break
through to the capital, leaving Western powers banking on an
uprising in Tripoli to overthrow Gaddafi.
The Libyan leader suffered a propaganda defeat when four
members of the national soccer team and 13 other football
figures defected to the rebels, the rebel council said.
Libyans are passionate about the sport and the national team
was closely aligned with Gaddafi's rule. At one point his son,
Saadi, played in the side.
Asked about the defections, government spokesman Ibrahim
said: "The Libyan footall team is full and functioning and
performing all of its duties inside and outside Libya."
A momentary thaw in the fighting allowed the Red Cross to
reunite people caught on the wrong side of the conflict with
A ship, the Ionis, arrived in Tripoli's port on Sunday
carrying 106 people from the main rebel stronghold in Benghazi.
Many of the passengers were elderly, and families with small
A crowd of a few dozen people waited for the ship to dock,
among them Mohammed Al-Gimzi. "I love Muammar Gaddafi very
much," he said.
When Al-Gimzi's sister disembarked from the ship, he rushed
to greet her and the two stood weeping with their heads on each
other's shoulders. "I am very happy to see my sister again," he
said, tears running down his face.
As part of the same exchange, a ship carried around 300
people from Tripoli to Benghazi on Friday. They included dozens
of rebel supporters who had been detained.
"This is purely humanitarian, for families to meet with
their loved ones and to be able to travel," Robin Waudo, a
spokesman in Tripoli for the International Committee of the Red
Cross, said on Sunday.
(Additional reporting by Mussab Al-Khairalla in Tripoli and
Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing
by Ralph Boulton)
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