Istanbul: Top officials from major Western
and regional powers gathered here today to discuss strategies
to strengthen the Libyan opposition and force embattled
strongman Muammar Gaddafi out.
The fourth meeting of the Libya contact group, set to
open at 0830 GMT, follows prior contacts between France and
members of Gaddafi`s regime that have raised the possibility
of negotiating the colonel`s departure.
With Gaddafi hanging on in Tripoli despite almost four
months of NATO-led bombings, the rebels yesterday launched an
offensive on the oil town of Brega, hoping they can dislodge
loyalist troops and win a key strategic victory.
A senior US official accompanying Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton to Istanbul said the talks should help the
rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) to prepare for
"It`s about how we are going to collectively help to
prepare the NTC to govern. It`s just a fact that countries are
starting to look past Gaddafi. He`s going to go, and the
meeting can be a useful place to take stock, prepare for that
transition," the official said ahead of the talks.
The United States hopes for an NTC "roadmap, which we
hope and expect will be for a democratic Libya, an inclusive
process that includes all parts of Libyan society," the
official said, requesting anonymity.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, his
counterparts Alain Juppe of France and Franco Frattini of
Italy as well as NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen
were to attend the talks in Turkey`s largest city.
The NTC`s de facto foreign minister, Mahmoud Jibril, was
also to join the meeting, where aid for the crash-strapped
rebels -- both military and financial -- was also to be high
on the agenda.
France, which has played a key role in rallying support
for the rebels, said Tuesday a political solution to the
conflict could be within reach.
"We are meeting envoys (of the regime) who say to us:
look, `Gaddafi is ready to go, let`s talk about it`," Juppe
said, adding that the contacts did not yet amount to serious
The United States, however, has remained unconvinced and
cautioned about contradictory diplomatic signals from Tripoli.
"We are not persuaded yet that any of this is persuasive
in terms of the red lines that we have laid out," another
official in Clinton`s entourage said, referring to an end to
violence and Gaddafi`s departure.