TARHOUNA, Libya – Negotiations have collapsed over the surrender of Bani Walid, one of Moammar Gadhafi’s remaining strongholds, and Libyan rebels were waiting for the green light to launch their final attack on the besieged town, a spokesman said.

Rebel negotiator Abdullah Kanshil said the talks had broken down after Moussa Ibrahim, Gadhafi’s chief spokesman and a top aide, had insisted the rebels put down their weapons before entering the town, about 90 miles southeast of Tripoli.

Rebel forces control most of the oil-rich North African nation and are already setting up a new government, but Gadhafi and his staunchest allies remain on the run and enjoy support in several central and southern areas, including Bani Walid and the fugitive leader’s hometown of Sirte.

The rebels have said the hard-core loyalists are a small minority inside Bani Walid, but are heavily armed and stoking fear to keep other residents from surrendering.

“We feel sorry for the people of Bani Walid,” said Kanshil, himself a native of the town, speaking to reporters at a rebel checkpoint about 40 miles to the north. “We hope for the best for our town.”

The rebels have extended to Saturday a deadline for the surrender of Sirte and other loyalist areas, but some have warned they could attack Bani Walid sooner because many of the most prominent former regime officials were believed to be inside.

There has been speculation that Gadhafi and his son Seif al-Islam had been there at some point, and the apparent presence of Ibrahim indicates that the town was a haven for high-level Gadhafi aides.

“This battle has already been decided,” said Ahmed Bani, the rebels’ military spokesman based in Benghazi. “It is only a matter of hours.”

He said there had been clashes around the town for the past four days and rebel forces had come under rocket and machine-gun fire.

Thousands of rebel fighters have converged on Bani Walid in recent days from multiple directions.

The rebels say Gadhafi does have some genuine supporters in Bani Walid, mainly people linked to the dictator through an elaborate patronage system that helped keep him in power for nearly 42 years.