Major powers gather for Libya talks in Istanbul
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Last Updated: Friday, July 15, 2011, 16:12
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 power.

"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 negotiations.

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.


First Published: Friday, July 15, 2011, 16:12

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