UK denies Libya shift after Hague says Kadhafi could stay
Britain denied Tuesday any change to its strategy on Libya after Foreign Secretary William Hague suggested Moamer Kadhafi could be allowed to stay in the country if he quit power.
With little sign that Kadhafi's departure is imminent some four months after Western powers launched an air campaign over Libya to stop the strongman's forces crushing a rebellion, Hague appeared to soften his rhetoric.
"What is absolutely clear... is that whatever happens, Kadhafi must leave power," Hague told a London press conference Monday ahead of talks with French counterpart Alain Juppe.
"Obviously him leaving Libya itself would be the best way of showing the Libyan people that they no longer have to live in fear of Kadhafi.
"But as I have said all along, this is ultimately a question for Libyans to determine," added Hague.
Hague has repeatedly called for Kadhafi to leave power and quit Libya but British media noted his latest remarks struck a more conciliatory tone.
The Times newspaper described the comments as a "concession" which "lowered the bar in an attempt to break the current stalemate."
But a British diplomatic source insisted Tuesday that London had not changed its position over Libya and Hague was repeating comments he had made before.
The source reiterated that Kadhafi's future was "ultimately a question for the Libyan people", but added that the Libyan leader was subject to an International Criminal Court arrest warrant "for crimes against humanity and should face justice."
Hague's remarks came just six days after Juppe said France accepted that Kadhafi could stay in Libya if he quit politics, comments he echoed at Monday's press conference.
"Whether he remains in Libya or whether he goes elsewhere, it is for Libyans to decide through a national dialogue that will be implemented under the aegis of the National Transitional Council," he told reporters, referring to the rebels' administration.
Along with Britain, France was one of the first powers to launch United Nations-mandated military action over Libya in March.
In Libya on Tuesday, Tripoli accused NATO of a deadly raid on a clinic in Zliten, east of the capital. The military alliance confirmed it had hit targets near Zliten but said it had "no evidence" any were civilian facilities.
© 2011 AFP