In a desperate attempt to find a diplomatic solution to the brutal civil war in Libya, the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, has arrived in Tripoli for talks with Moammar Gaddafi.

According to some unconfirmed reports, the actual purpose of Zuma’s visit is to ask the Libyan leader to step down.

This is Zuma’s second journey to the war-torn nation since the conflict erupted months ago. A previous peace proposal by the African Union (AU), led by Zuma, was summarily rejected by Libyan rebels and NATO because it did not provide for an immediate exit strategy for Gaddafi.

Reportedly, when Zuma arrived in Tripoli, Gaddafi (who has not been seen in public for three weeks) was not there to welcome him.

Zuma is one of few major world leaders who still has Gaddafi’s ear. On Sunday, the South African president again condemned missile strikes by NATO onto Libya. Gaddafi has long provided financing to the AU.

We... join the continent and all peace-loving people of the world in condemning the continuing aerial bombardments of Libya by Western forces, Zuma’s ruling African National Congress party said in a statement.

A Libyan rebel spokesman Guma al-Gamati told the BBC that Zuma’s visit may be important since Gaddafi is now in a weaker and most isolated position.

The people around him and the aides and people who are fighting for him are diminishing; some are deserting, he said.

Zuma’s trip follows demands by the leaders of the G8 nations for Gaddafi to step down. Even Russia, as exemplified by President Dmitry Medvedev’s statements over the weekend, are calling for Gaddafi’s resignation.

Libyan rebel leaders, who are based in the eastern city of Benghazi, praised the G8.

Rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of the Transitional National Council (TNC), said: The entire world has reached a consensus that Colonel Gaddafi and his regime [has] not only lost their legitimacy but also their credibility.

However, the Libyan government shrugged off the G8 statements.

We are an African country. Any initiative outside the AU framework will be rejected, Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim said.