Clinton departs for London conference on Libya

28th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

US Secretary Hillary Clinton left for London on Monday for an international conference that she says will begin to focus on diplomatic efforts to force Moamer Kadhafi to step down.

The chief US diplomat will join a conference on Tuesday attended by foreign ministers from more than 35 countries, including Turkey, as well as the top officials from NATO, the United Nations, the Arab League, and African Union.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Clinton also may hold talks with Mahmoud Jibril, the Libyan opposition leader whom she met in Paris on March 15.

In a weekend interview with NBC television, Clinton said that European, Arab and other officials would "begin to focus on how we're going to help facilitate such a transition of him (Kadhafi) leaving power."

Clinton did not elaborate but she and other US officials have made clear that Kadhafi is not a target in the international air operations, now in their ninth day, but insist his departure is the administration's political goal.

The no-fly zone and air strikes -- over which NATO has now assumed command from the US-led military coalition -- has given a boost to the rebels, who have come back from near defeat to put Kadhafi's forces on the defensive.

Clinton and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have said the regime could implode with massive defections which they say are occurring already. Clinton said US President Barack administration's are directly encouraging defections.

A western diplomat said meanwhile on the condition of anonymity that the talks sought to increase Kadhafi's isolation within the African Union, which has been more resistant to such efforts than the Arab League and other bodies.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said "he hoped the conference would bring together a broad grouping of countries committed to a better future for the people of Libya," according to his office.

It said Cameron also wanted the conference to send an "unequivocal message" that the international community would continue to implement the UN Security Council resolution on Libya.

Resolution 1973 authorized the use of military force to protect Libyan civilians and reinforced the previous resolution 1970 which imposed travel and assets bans as well as an arms embargo on Kadhafi's regime.

The British statement said delegates would also discuss plans for "meeting the humanitarian needs of the Libyan people."

Neil Crompton, a diplomat at the US embassy in Washington, told reporters last Friday, citing British Foreign Minister William Hague, that the conference is designed to "build and demonstrate unity and unity of purpose on Libya."

Crompton, counsellor on the Middle East, added it is also "designed to "encourage and accelerate commitment, both to the military action and to the wider enforcement of the resolution 1973."

The conference is also designed "to coordinate support on reconstruction work in Libya" for when after the conflict end.

"We expect the meeting also to form some sort of contact group of nations to take forward this work," Crompton said, citing Hague.

© 2011 AFP

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