ROME, Aug 31, 2011 (AFP) - The fall of Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi's hometown of Sirte to the rebels would signal the "definitive" end of his 42-year regime, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Wednesday.
"We're talking about a handful of days. If as I hope Sirte falls as a result of a peaceful surrender by Saturday that will be the last bastion signalling the fall of the regime," Frattini said in an interview with Radio 24.
The NATO-led mission in Libya "will conclude when Libya is free," he added.
Asked where he thought Kadhafi could be hiding, he said: "My personal opinion is that Kadhafi has found refuge within Libya itself. Libya is a big and desert country -- there are areas that he could have run away to.
"Everyone knows that an escape from the country would have been too visible and evidently would not have escaped the notice of NATO, which patrols the territory to carry out strikes but also to identify suspects," he said.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued arrest warrants for Kadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the former head of intelligence Abdullah al-Senussi for crimes against humanity committed against regime opponents.
Italy is Libya's former colonial ruler and it enjoyed close economic and diplomatic ties with the Kadhafi regime before the start of an uprising against the Libyan leader. It has since joined international efforts against Kadhafi.