Kadhafi exile the best option: analysts

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World powers meeting in London on Tuesday should give Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi a chance to go into exile, with African nations or even Venezuela the most likely destinations, analysts said.

The 35 nations gathered in the British capital are reportedly considering the possibility of offering an exit plan to Kadhafi to avoid the spectre of a drawn-out military operation in Libya.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Kadhafi should still face the International Criminal Court, a call echoed by Libya's rebels, but Hague refused to rule out exile.

Giving Kadhafi a "way out" would reduce the chances of a drawn-out civil conflict in Libya, said Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics.

"The reality is that Kadhafi is cornered, his back is against the wall. Unless Kadhafi is offered a way out this will be a fight to the last man and the last bullet, there is no doubt in my mind," Gerges told AFP.

"Even if the rebels succeed in two or three weeks it will harden the country and it will be much messier and more dangerous" for Libya and for foreign powers alike, he added.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Sunday gave the outlines of a diplomatic plan that could include exile for Kadhafi.

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

And while countries like Britain say they want Kadhafi to face justice, in reality they would "jump at the chance" to see him slip out of Libya, said Shashank Joshi, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.

"Regardless of what the rebels want, the Western powers intervening in Libya will place a much higher priority on resolving this without a bloody ending," Joshi said.

He said Saudi Arabia, which took in toppled Tunisian leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in January, was unlikely to host Kadhafi because the Libyan leader had previously criticised its ruling family.

He said the most likely exile boltholes were countries with close ties to Kadhafi, particularly Venezuela because of Kadhafi's friendship with Hugo Chavez, followed by Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe and "somewhere non-descript like Burkina Faso".

African countries were particularly likely because Kadhafi had used Libya's oil wealth to fund many countries on the continent and also the African Union.

While it is "clear that no one has done any serious legwork into how it (exile) would work," the mechanics of allowing him into exile would be "very simple," Joshi added.

Since his international rehabilitation in 2003 Kadhafi has developed intelligence channels with the West through which he could communicate his desire to step down, he said.

The coalition could then set up an "air corridor" through the no-fly zone to let him out, he said.

The analysts agreed however that it should be a final, one-off offer for Kadhafi, with secondary players perhaps being given a chance to negotiate it.

"That is why I hope that the Italians and African Union are given the space and also the leeway to try to see if Kadhafi is interested. It doesn't have to come from Western leaders," Gerges said.

But it is also vital that Kadhafi's family, tribe and wider supporters should be factored in to prevent future unrest of the type that devastated Afghanistan and Iraq.

"They must give him an incentive, not just for him but for his family and clan and tribe and the people who are willing to die for him," said Saad Djebbar, a London-based political commentator and lawyer who represented Libyan interests in the case of the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Gerges said any political plan for Libya "must be two-pronged."

"Firstly a way out for Kadhafi and his family -- this should be the last offer for him, this is it. But also a concerted effort to appeal to the people who are fighting the rebels that this is not about you," he added.

© 2011 AFP

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