World Powers Meet to Plot Libya Endgame

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- Top diplomats met Tuesday in London to plot out an endgame for Moammar Gadhafi's tottering regime and to strike a deal with the Libyan opposition over plans for the country's future.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Arab League and up to 40 foreign ministers were joining the talks, seeking to ratchet up the pressure on Gadhafi to quit.
Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said several nations are behind a proposal to swiftly end the conflict, setting out plans for a cease-fire, exile for Gadhafi and a framework for talks on Libya's future between tribal leaders and opposition figures.
Britain and the United States signaled ahead of the summit that they could accept a plan under which Gadhafi quickly leaves Libya and in return escapes a war crimes trial, despite a previous insistence that he must face the International Criminal Court.
"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," Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said ahead of the summit.
Frattini said several African counties could offer Gadhafi a haven. "I hope that the African Union can come up with a valid proposal," he said.
But international allies are "not going to choose Col. Gadhafi's retirement home," Hague said.
African Union chairman Jean Ping was not attending the talks as had been expected. "We already had our own meeting last Friday and agreed on a way forward there," said El Ghassim Wane, director of the AU Peace and Security Council.
However, delegates did include Qatar's emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and dozens of foreign ministers from across Europe and the Middle East.
Turkey, which has offered to mediate a permanent cease-fire, said the talks would gauge international support for scenarios under which Gadhafi could retreat into exile.
Hague and Clinton met early Tuesday with Libyan opposition envoy Mahmoud Jibril -- who was holding talks in London and scheduled to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron, but was not attending the main conference.
"We discussed the current political and humanitarian situation in Libya. We agreed on the absolute importance of protecting and safeguarding civilians in Libya," Hague said following his talks with Jibril.
Jibril's Interim Transitional National Council pledged to lead work aimed at holding new presidential and parliamentary elections in the wake of Gadhafi's potential ouster. It also vowed to uphold human rights, draft a national constitution and encourage the formation of political parties.
"We have learnt from the struggles of our past during the dark days of dictatorship that there is no alternative to building a free and democratic society," the council said in a statement.
The U.S. was also sending diplomat Chris Stevens to the rebel-held Libyan city of Benghazi to meet with rebel leaders.
Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a joint statement, said Jibril's council could play a key role in deciding Libya's future -- but stressed it would likely not be the only group involved.
The two also urged Gadhafi loyalists to seize a final chance to abandon the dictator and side with those seeking political reform.
Sarkozy and Cameron discussed the meeting late Monday in a video conference with President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In a speech Monday night at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, Obama said the London talks would help increase pressure on Gadhafi.
"While our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people," Obama said.
Libya's deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim told a news conference in Tripoli that foreign leaders had no right to attempt to impose a new political system on the country. "The Libyan people are the only ones that have the right decide the country's future," he told reporters.
Kaim called on nations attending the London talks to agree on a peace deal.
"We call upon Obama and the Western leaders to be peacemakers not warmongers, and not to push Libyans towards a civil war and more death and destruction," he said.
Outside the summit, about 70 protesters held pro-Gadhafi placards, sounded bullhorns and led chants of "Hands off Libya!" One placard read: "We can resolve our problems without you."
The London meeting -- which was being attended by NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen -- was also expected to discuss disputes over the scope of NATO-led coalition airstrikes, and to more clearly define the extent of cooperation between Libya's rebel groups and international military commanders.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov -- who was not at the talks -- says the international air campaign that began March 19 has breached the terms of the U.N. resolution which authorized the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians.
Cameron says the coalition had not gone beyond its mandate, but acknowledged the impact had been to force Gadhafi's military into a retreat from a number of key towns.
Veronika Wand-Danielsson, Sweden's ambassador to NATO, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Sweden had been asked to join the alliance enforcing the no-fly zone.
Sweden, which not a full member of NATO, will send up to eight JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets, but Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said the planes cannot be used to attack ground targets in Libya.


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