Only days after Muammar Qaddafi defiantly vowed to stay in Libya "dead or alive" in the face of intensified NATO strikes, there are signs today that he might be exploring an exit strategy. As foreign ministers from the 22-nation Libya Contact Group met today in Abu Dhabi, an aide to opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril told Bloomberg Television that Qaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, has reached out to the rebels in the last few days to negotiate a way for his father to relinquish power. "We are talking now of the last stage of this operation," the aide said, adding that the opposition won't allow Qaddafi (pictured above on state TV on Tuesday) to remain in the country even though he is "dreaming" of doing so. At the same conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she is aware of "numerous and continuing" overtures by "people close to Qaddafi" to negotiate a political transition, though she can't say whether the deals would be accepted, according to the AP. Clinton added that Qaddafi's "days are numbered." Of course, both the rebels and the U.S. have every incentive to suggest that Qaddafi is increasingly hemmed in and desperate.
As these reports surface, there are also indications that the Libyan opposition is getting a second wind. The U.S. has announced that the first shipment of Libyan oil sold by the opposition Transitional National Council has been delivered to an American refinery, while the U.S., France, Italy, Kuwait, and Turkey pledge millions to the rebels' cause. An opposition spokesman says Libya's rebels need $3 billion to pay salaries and subsidize food for the next four months, according to Al Jazeera.