TRIPOLI (AFP) - Moamer Gaddafi's regime is in direct talks with Libya's rebels, a Russian envoy was told on Thursday as the strongman's son said the way out of a months-long conflict is the staging of elections. Russia's Mikhail Margelov, in Tripoli for one day after visiting the rebels in their Benghazi stronghold last week, made the remarks after meeting Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi. "I was assured at today's negotiations that direct contacts between Benghazi and Tripoli are already underway," Margelov said, quoted by Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency. "The Libyan prime minister told me that a round of such contacts concluded yesterday in Paris," he said, adding that French President Nicolas "Sarkozy has been informed of the outcome of these contacts." He did not disclose the nature of the talks, which could not be immediately confirmed by the rebels' National Transitional Council. Mahmudi said Gaddafi's departure from power was a "red line" that cannot be crossed, despite growing international calls for him to quit and the armed insurrection against his 41-year rule. "Of utmost concern to us in any dialogue is the unity of Libya," Mahmudi told a news conference in Tripoli. His remarks came after Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam said elections were the only way to break the deadlock. "Elections, immediately and with international supervision. It's the only painless way to break out of the impasse in Libya," Gaddafi's son told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. "We could hold them within three months. At most by the end of the year. And the guarantee of transparency could be the presence of international observers," he was quoted as saying. The polls, he added, could be supervised by the European Union or African Union, the United Nations or even NATO as long as a "mechanism" was in place to ensure there were "no suspicions of vote-rigging." Spain said Thursday it is booting out Libya's ambassador over the Gaddafi regime's repression of civilians and expelling three embassy officials for unspecified activities. Madrid told Ambassador Ageli Abdussalam Ali Breni he had 10 days to leave the country, the foreign ministry said in a statement. "The government of Spain has decided to end the mission of the ambassador accredited to Madrid by the Tripoli authorities, the Gaddafi regime having lost all legitimacy for its continued repression of the Libyan people," it said. NATO warplanes early Thursday destroyed an apparently empty hotel, the Wenzrik, in central Tripoli near administrative buildings and Libya's state broadcaster, an AFP journalist reported. The authorities took reporters to the site of the dawn raid, which left only sections of wall standing. They said the attack caused no casualties. Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim later denounced what he called a "barbaric and premeditated raid by NATO on civilians." Kaaim refrained from commenting about Margelov's visit, but when pressed about possible negotiations about Gaddafi's departure, he said that "nobody can make such decisions." "It is for the Libyan people to decide whether the leader should leave or not," he said. At least five anti-Gaddafi rebels were killed and 30 wounded when they came under sniper fire in three villages they seized on Wednesday in western Libya, hospital sources said Thursday. The attacks took place in the villages of Zawit Bagoul, Lawania and Ghanymma, the sources said in the western town of Zintan. The rebels overran the villages as they sought control of a key junction connecting the towns of Yafran and Zintan. Rebels were seen patrolling the streets of Zawit Bagoul, 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) from Zintan. Pro-Gaddafi positions on the village outskirts were deserted and loyalists left behind clothes, shoes and ammunition. The correspondent said the rebels later also moved into Lawania, about seven kilometres away, and then Ghanymma, less than 10 kilometres from Yafran, as NATO aircraft were heard overhead. NATO, which has carried out 10 weeks of air strikes against Gaddafi's forces, can see out its mission without ground troops, its operations commander said in a briefing. Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard also said the military situation in western Libya, where there has been an upsurge in fighting, was developing "very positively." Senior military officials from Britain and France, key players in the NATO campaign, have expressed concerns about how to maintain the NATO operation, which has been extended for a second three-month period from June 27. But French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in Algeria that "a very large majority of the international community" wanted Gaddafi to depart, even though this was not an aim of the UN resolution authorising NATO strikes on Libya. In Tunisia, about 60 Libyans including many government soldiers landed at El Ketef port after the arrival of around 40 of Gaddafi's troops earlier in the week, among them some officers, the official TAP news agency reported.