Former French PM held talks on Libya in Tunisia

18th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Former French prime minister and top diplomat Dominique de Villepin recently met Libyan figures to discuss ways out of the conflict in their country, he said Thursday.

Speaking to the daily Le Parisien, Villepin was cautious but confirmed reports in the Arab press that he had travelled to the resort town of Djerba in southern Tunisia for talks on the crisis.

"I was indeed there, but I really can't make any comment, as this might compromise the chances of these discussions being successful or useful," he told the newspaper.

The French foreign ministry told AFP: "We make no comment on press stories nor on the private travel of French figures abroad."

Villepin is best known internationally for making an impassioned speech at the United Nations warning against the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq while serving as foreign minister to then French president Jacques Chirac.

But since then he has fallen out with the current president, his long-standing rival Nicolas Sarkozy, and he is building a career as a centre-right dissident and possible presidential candidate.

A close associate confirmed to AFP that Villepin had gone to Tunisia for talks with Libyans, adding: "It was the action of a man of dialogue and peace who is very well known in the Arab world."

There have been conflicting reports over the significance of the informal meetings reportedly taking place in the luxury hotels of Djerba, a Tunisian seaside town which is a short drive from the Libyan border.

Some have suggested that figures from strongman Moamer Kadhafi's embattled regime are privately talking to representatives of the Libyan rebellion with a view to finding a negotiated solution to the conflict.

A senior UN envoy attended the discussions this week.

But the rebels' shadow government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), said it has not sent formal representatives to any talks and insists it will not talk to the regime until Kadhafi and his sons quit power.

© 2011 AFP

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