World powers meet on Libya's future

29th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

International powers gathered in London on Tuesday to map out a post-Kadhafi future for Libya.

More than 35 countries, including seven Arab states, met as Moamer Kadhafi urged Western nations to end their "barbaric" offensive against his country.

Ten days of Western air strikes on Kadhafi's forces have transformed the opposition campaign, allowing rebels to push westwards, although they were halted by pro-regime forces near the key city of Sirte on Tuesday.

Britain and Spain refused to rule out the possibility of offering Kadhafi a safe corridor out of the country, amid reports that a possible exile plan could be discussed at the meeting.

"We're not in control, of course, of where he might go. I'm not going to choose Colonel Kadhafi's retirement home," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is chairing the meeting.

"Of course I believe he should face the court, people who have committed crimes, if the prosecutor has the information on them, should be before the International Criminal Court (ICC)," he told BBC radio.

"But of course where he goes, if he goes, is up to him and the people of Libya to determine and we will not necessarily be in control of that."

Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez said Tuesday that exile for Kadhafi was still a legal option because the ICC has not yet charged him with crimes against humanity.

The leaders of Britain, France, Germany and the United States agreed in a video-conference Monday that the London talks should aid "the political transition in Libya".

But underlining the diplomatic difficulties of planning for a post-Kadhafi era, Britain has invited the main group representing the Libyan opposition to London, but their representatives were to take no part in the talks.

Ahead of the summit, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Mahmud Jibril, who handles foreign affairs for Libya's Transitional National Council (TNC), a senior US administration official said.

After his own meeting with Jibril earlier Tuesday, Hague hailed his group as "an important and legitimate political interlocutor", but stressed Britain was committed to building ties with "a wide range" of opposition figures.

In another sign of growing Western links with the rebels, a US envoy will travel to the opposition stronghold of Benghazi "sometime soon" to establish a "systematic channel" with groups seeking to oust Kadhafi, a US official said.

France is the only Western country to have recognised the rebels officially. Qatar followed suit on Monday.

The TNC issed a statement Tuesday vowing to work for free and fair elections in a "modern, free and united state".

The West decided at a meeting in Paris on March 19 to authorise military action in support of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which called for citizens to be protected from pro-regime forces and a no-fly zone to be implemented.

Ten days later, hundreds of strikes on Kadhafi's tanks and armoured cars have helped rebels to gain control of a string of towns.

In a letter addressed to the London meeting, Kadhafi said the offensive was "barbaric and unjust".

"Leave Libya for the Libyans. You are committing genocide against a peaceful people and a developing nation," he said, according to the letter released by the Libyan state news agency Jana.

The NATO military alliance finally agreed Sunday to take over full command of military operations in Libya from a US-led coalition.

While France, Britain and the United States have driven forward the military action on Libya, they have been determined to ensure Arab nations are seen to be supporting their efforts.

Iraq, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Qatar, Tunisia and Morocco were all represented in London.

But the Arab League was only represented at ambassador level and the African Union did not attend, despite being earlier announced among the participants.

© 2011 AFP

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