Libya envoy in Turkey for truce talks

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An envoy of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi arrived in Ankara Monday to seek Turkish help for a possible ceasefire with opposition forces, officials said.

The envoy, Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Abdelati Laabidi, was to hold talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, but details of his itinerary were not immediately available.

"Both sides have told us that they have certain thoughts on a ceasefire. We will talk to the two sides and see whether there is any common ground," a senior foreign ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"The opposition is informed about the visit and they may also come (to Turkey) soon," he added.

Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, however, dismissed the diplomatic overtures concerning a ceasefire from Kadhafi's regime.

He said the proposals were "not credible" after Rome on Monday recognised the rebel interim national council as its sole interlocutor.

Britain said it was not pursuing "an exit strategy for Kadhafi" but a "genuine ceasefire."

"There have been lots of reports of envoys and of the regime reaching out in a number of ways... We have been very clear throughout about what the next step should be and that needs to be a genuine ceasefire and an end to violence," a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said.

A Turkish government official, who also asked not to be named, said that "a ceasefire in Libya is a priority" for Turkey.

The Turkish consulate in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi is already in contact with the opposition, he added.

Laabadi held talks in Greece Sunday and was expected to travel also to Malta.

"According to what the Libyan envoy said the regime seems to be looking for a solution," Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said in a statement after Sunday's meeting between Laabidi and Prime Minister George Papandreou.

The Libyan rebels insisted Monday that the whole of Kadhafi's family must leave before there can be any truce with regime forces amid reports that his sons are offering to oversee a transition.

Laabidi's trip to Ankara coincided with a visit by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who met behind closed doors with Davutoglu and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

NATO took full control of Libyan operations Thursday, replacing a US-led coalition that had been conducting air raids since March 19.

Turkey, NATO's sole predominantly Muslim member and a key regional player, had slammed the strikes, vowing to "never point a gun at the Libyan people."

Last week, the Turkish parliament approved the dispatch of six naval vessels to a NATO patrol mission in Libyan waters as the Islamist-rooted government moved reluctantly to join the military campaign.

Ankara has also sent a ferry to Libya to take several hundred people wounded in the conflict and give them treatment in Turkish hospitals.

Davutoglu has said the international community's objective in Libya should be "not to launch of a large-scale war" similar to those in Afghanistan and Iraq but "to provide humanitarian aid, stop the escalation of fighting through an arms embargo and prevent clashes through a no-fly zone."

In the earlier stages of the turmoil, Ankara made discreeet efforts to persuade Kadhafi to cede power, hoping for a less turbulent outcome like in Tunisia and Egypt.

Under Erdogan, Turkey has sought a leadership role in the Muslim world, notably raising its profile in the region.

© 2011 AFP

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