Libyan government aide holds talks in Britain
Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi, a former Libyan prime minister, said Gadhafi’s government was reaching out to those leading the international military campaign in an attempt to halt airstrikes against regime targets which began March 19. The claim follows confirmation that a Libyan government aide has held talks in Britain with U.K. officials in recent days.
"We are trying to talk to the British, the French and the Americans to stop the killing of people. We are trying to find a mutual solution," al-Obeidi told Britain’s Channel 4 News, speaking in Tripoli.
Al-Obeidi was involved last month in Gadhafi-sanctioned negotiations with the African Union.
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman, Steve Field, said the U.K. has been in contact with a number of Libyan officials over recent weeks, though he declined to give specific details.
"We are sending them all one very clear message, which is that Gadhafi must go," he told reporters.
Mohammed Ismail, a senior aide to Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, has met with and also spoken by phone to British officials, who repeated to him their public calls for the Libyan leader to step down.
Two people familiar with the matter, who both demanded anonymity to discuss details, said Ismail had been in Britain to visit relatives, and that, when officials became aware of this, they took the opportunity to hold talks.
Field insisted that Britain had not been involved in negotiating any possible trade-offs aimed at sealing Gadhafi’s exit from power. "There are no deals," he said.
At an undisclosed location, thought to be in southern England, officials continued Friday to debrief Libya’s ex-foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, who fled Tripoli and flew to England on Wednesday.
Koussa, 62, is the highest ranking member of Gadhafi’s regime to quit so far and had been a longtime aide throughout the tyrant’s 42-year rule.
David Solomont, the U.S. ambassador in Spain, said Gadhafi supporters appeared to be losing confidence in the likelihood he will cling to power. "I think he is becoming increasingly more isolated in his own country," Solomont told reporters in Madrid on Friday.
A second senior Libyan official, Ali Abdessalam Treki â€” Libya’s former envoy to the U.N. and also a former foreign minister â€” announced that he had quit Thursday. But in a telephone interview Friday with Libyan state TV, the country’s current intelligence chief, Bouzeid Dorda, denied Treki had defected.
Scottish prosecutors are planning to interview Koussa over the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people â€” most of them Americans. Libya acknowledged responsibility for the terrorist attack in 2003, and authorities in Scotland believe Koussa may hold vital information on who ordered to plot.
Families of those killed when a French plane was blown up in 1989 over Niger â€” killing all 170 people aboard â€” also said they hope Koussa can be questioned.
Six Libyans, including a brother-in-law of Gadhafi, were convicted in absentia for their roles in the bombing, and Libya agreed to pay $170 million in compensation, though stopped short of acknowledging responsibility.
Field said Britain had not received any requests to extradite Koussa for questioning elsewhere.
Former NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, also an-ex British defense secretary, said it was likely international troops could be needed on the ground in Libya, if airstrikes don’t halt Gadhafi’s attacks on civilians.
Robertson urged European countries to take the lead â€” warning that the United States would no longer plug the gaps caused by hesitance to get involved or defense cuts that left some nations lacking troops.
"The boots assuredly would not be American. Their president and defense secretary have made it very clear this week their people are tired of coming the rescue of a Europe that won’t invest in its own security insurance," he said.
The Pentagon said Thursday it planned to withdraw its attack planes in Libya.
In Stockholm, Swedish lawmakers approved plans to send up to eight fighter jets and one transport plane to join the NATO-led air operations over Libya.
The Swedish JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets â€” which will depart for the region this weekend â€” won’t be permitted to bomb Gadhafi’s ground forces, but will be able to return fire if they are attacked.
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