World powers agree that Libya`s Gadhafi must go

World powers meeting in London edged closer to an exile plan for embattled Libyan leader.

Updated: Mar 30, 2011, 10:33 AM IST

London: International powers meeting in London edged closer to an exile plan for embattled Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi, as France said it was ready to discuss military aid for rebels.

More than 40 countries and organisations, including the United Nations and NATO, agreed to create a contact group to map out a future for Libya and to meet again as soon as possible in the Arab state of Qatar.

British Foreign Minister William Hague, who chaired the conference, said the delegates "agreed that Gaddafi and his regime have completely lost legitimacy."

The representatives had agreed to continue military action until Gaddafi met all the conditions of the UN resolution authorising a no-fly zone and other measures to protect civilians, he added.

Qatar had also agreed to facilitate the sale of Libyan oil, he said.

The statement made no mention of an exile plan for Gaddafi, but Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told AFP that the participants had "unanimously" agreed that Gaddafi should leave the country.

"Beyond that, it depends on the country which may offer to welcome Gaddafi," he added.

"There is as yet no formal proposal, no country has formulated such a plan, even the African countries which may be ready to make one."

While Hague said Britain still wanted Gaddafi to face the International Criminal Court, he refused to rule out the possibility of exile, which Spain`s foreign minister had also earlier described as a possibility.

"We`re not engaged in the United Kingdom in looking for somewhere for him to go, (but) that doesn`t exclude others doing so," Hague said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that a UN special envoy would visit Tripoli to discuss the option of Gaddafi leaving the country.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the conference to plot a post-Gaddafi political landscape, as well as to iron out differences over the military mission.

The rebels, seeking to end Gaddafi`s 40-year rule, have been emboldened by 10 days of coalition air strikes on the Libyan leader`s forces, but have met a barrage of fire halting their march west towards the capital, Tripoli.

They were forced to retreat 40 kilometres (25 miles) Tuesday from their frontline positions to Nofilia, 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Sirte, Gaddafi`s birthplace and the rebels` next target as they head west.

Under barrages of artillery fire, rebel fighters stampeded from the scene, many fleeing aboard pickup trucks, halting an advance launched when Britain, France and the United States started UN-mandated air strikes on March 19.

Two loud explosions rocked the Libyan capital Tripoli late Tuesday close to Gaddafi`s tightly guarded residence and military targets in the suburb of Tajura were also hit, an AFP correspondent reported.

The first explosion was heard around 1630 GMT, followed by a second some three minutes later in the Bab Al-Azizya district, closely followed by the whine of ambulance sirens.

Seven other explosions were also reported in Tajura, site of several military camps and an almost-nightly target of the air raids.
Tanks and troops loyal to Gaddafi swept through Misrata on Tuesday, firing shells as they attacked Libya`s third city, 214 kilometres (132 miles) east of Tripoli, a rebel spokesman said. He warned of a "massacre" ahead.

Rebels have said that Gaddafi forces expelled more than 5,000 families from their homes in the western part of the city.

"Hundreds of families have found refuge in schools and mosques. The situation is very dangerous, very delicate," a rebel spokesman said.

A doctor in the city said 142 people had been killed and 1,400 were wounded since March 18. Rebels said a hospital ship was expected to dock Tuesday in Misrata.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe acknowledged that arming or training the rebels was not covered in the UN Security Council resolutions on Libya.

"Having said that, we are prepared to discuss this with our partners," he told reporters.

Clinton and Hague both said, however, that the issue had not been discussed at the talks.

US President Barack Obama, who has staunchly laid out the moral imperative for protecting Libyan civilians caught in the battle, also said he did not rule out arming Libyan rebels as they seek to make territorial gains.

"I`m not ruling it out. But I`m also not ruling it in. We`re still making an assessment partly about what Gaddafi`s forces are going to be doing," Obama told NBC in an interview.
Cameron and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem said after the talks they believed Libya could "look forward to a future free from violence, oppression and uncertainty," in an opinion piece for Asharq Al-Awsat, a London based Arabic newspaper.

The pair praised the action of the international community, claiming that the military operation had "saved the city of Benghazi" and "averted a massacre."

Libya`s main opposition group, the Transitional National Council, issued a statement at the talks in London vowing to work for free and fair elections in a "modern, free and united state".

The group`s envoy, Mahmud Jibril, was also in London. While not invited to attend the conference, he met with Clinton, Hague and the foreign ministers of France and Germany on the sidelines.
While NATO finally agreed Sunday to take over full command of military operations in Libya from a US-led coalition, the handover has been put back by 24 hours until Thursday.

While Britain, France and the United States have driven forward the military action on Libya, they have been determined to ensure Arab nations are seen to be supporting their efforts.

Iraq, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Qatar, Tunisia and Morocco were all represented in London.

But the Arab League was only represented at ambassador level and Jean Ping, Chair of the Commission of the African Union, did not attend despite having been announced as among the participants.

Qatar`s Jassem, playing down Arab disunity, said the decision to hold the first contact group meeting in Qatar demonstrated "the lead role that Arab countries are playing in bringing an end to this crisis."

PTI