Top Diplomats Gather in London to Talk Libya

By: AP
By: AP

LONDON -- A sweeping array of world powers -- from the United States to the United Nations, from the Arab League to NATO -- spoke from the same script Tuesday in forcefully calling for Libya's Moammar Gadhafi to step down. Some even hinted at secret talks on Gadhafi's exit.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague led the crisis talks in London between 40 countries and institutions, all seeking an endgame aimed at halting Gadhafi's bloody onslaught against Libya's people.
Although the NATO-led airstrikes on Gadhafi's forces that began March 19 aren't aimed at toppling him, dozens of nations agreed in the talks that Libya's future does not include the dictator at the helm.
"Gadhafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, so we believe he must go. We're working with the international community to try to achieve that outcome," Clinton told reporters.
As she spoke, U.S. officials announced that American ships and submarines in the Mediterranean had unleashed a barrage of cruise missiles at Libyan missile storage facilities in the Tripoli area late Monday and early Tuesday -- the heaviest attack in days.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle echoed Clinton's point.
"One thing is quite clear and has to be made very clear to Gadhafi: His time is over. He must go," Westerwelle said. "We must destroy his illusion that there is a way back to business as usual if he manages to cling to power."
Both Clinton and the representatives of Libya's opposition -- who held a raft of talks on the margins of the London summit -- acknowledged there were few signs that Gadhafi is heeding those demands. There was no immediate comment from Russia, which abstained in the U.N. vote authorizing the no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians.
"He will have to make a decision," Clinton said. "And that decision, so far as we're aware, has not yet been made."
Diplomats rejected suggestions that Gadhafi could be granted immunity if he accepted the call to retreat but said work was under way to find a possible sanctuary for him.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said negotiations on securing Gadhafi's exit were being conducted with "absolute discretion" and that there were options on the table that hadn't yet been formalized.
"What is indispensable is that there be countries that are willing to welcome Gadhafi and his family, obviously to end this situation which otherwise could go on for some time," he said.
Frattini had said earlier that he hoped some nation would offer a proposal.
But the Italian diplomat insisted there was no option of immunity for Gadhafi. "We cannot promise him a 'safe-conduct' pass," he stressed.


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