France says `contacts` underway on Gaddafi exit
Widespread discussions are under way to bring the Libyan crisis to an end, claims French Foreign Minister.
Paris: Widespread discussions are under way to bring the Libyan crisis to an end and "emissaries" say that Muammar Gaddafi is ready to leave power, France`s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Tuesday.
"Everybody is in contact with everybody. The Libyan regime is sending messengers everywhere, to Turkey, New York, Paris. Juppe said on France Info state radio. "Emissaries are telling us Gaddafi is ready to go, let`s talk about it," he said, without saying who the emissaries were.
Remarks by Defense Minister Gerard Longuet at the weekend saying rebels should start direct negotiations with Gaddafi`s camp, and a report that Paris was talking to the Libyan leader, pointed to a growing restlessness in Paris about the stalemate.
French officials denied any shift in position on Monday and said Paris had merely sent messages to Tripoli via intermediaries making clear the Libyan leader must relinquish power and withdraw his troops to enable a political solution.
"There are contacts but it`s not a negotiation proper at this stage," Juppe said on Tuesday.
France has spearheaded the NATO-led air campaign in Libya with Britain under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians, and it was the first to launch air strikes against troops loyal to Gaddafi in March.
But after more than three months of bombing, international leaders are puzzling over how to end the crisis. Rebels hold large parts of eastern Libya and have loosened a siege of the city of Misrata, but are unable to make decisive moves toward the capital Tripoli despite strikes on Gaddafi`s forces.
Diplomatic sources close to the matter said on Monday envoys from Paris and Tripoli have met in Paris, Brussels and Tunisia in recent weeks, but have made little progress.
Juppe and Prime Minister Francois Fillon on Tuesday again reiterated that Gaddafi had to quit, without saying if that meant he could do so without quitting the country too.
"He must go. He must at least surrender power. After that, it`s up to the Libyan people to decide," Fillon told Europe 1 Radio.