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Thursday, July 21, 2011

France says Qaddafi could stay in Libya if quits politics; Libyan official in Moscow

Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi could remain in Libya if he quits politics, the French foreign ministry said on Wednesday, under a ceasefire deal to end the conflict with the Paris-backed rebels.

“One of the possibilities being considered is that he stay in Libya but on the clear condition that he steps aside from Libyan political life,” the minister, Alain JuppĂ©, told LCI television.

“That is what we are waiting for before we start the political process for a ceasefire,” Mr. JuppĂ© said.

Two members of Libya’s rebel Transitional National Council were due to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Wednesday.

France was the first country to publicly recognize the council and first to launch air strikes against Qaddafi’s military machine when now NATO-led operations began in March.

Meanwhile, Russia on Wednesday was to host Mr. Qaddafi’s foreign minister in Moscow as it presses ahead with mediation efforts to end the conflict between his regime and rebel forces.

Foreign Minister Abdelati Al Obeidi will be the highest-ranking Qaddafi official to visit Moscow since the conflict with the rebels erupted and is expected to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

His visit was revealed in a statement by a Russian foreign ministry official to state news agencies a day earlier but formal details of the meetings have yet to be announced.

Russia backed the UN resolution that opened the way for Western military air strikes against Qaddafi targets but has since expressed fury with the duration of the campaign and accused the West of taking sides in a civil war.

Along with the African Union, Moscow has positioned itself as a potential mediator in the crisis and President Dmitry Medvedev’s envoy has held talks in both Tripoli and the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

“We will continue to search for a compromise,” Mr. Medvedev said on Tuesday while on a visit to Germany. “In my opinion it is reachable.”

Mr. Medvedev has strongly backed Western calls for Mr. Qaddafi to quit but Russia has also denied speculation it could be ready to offer the Libyan leader sanctuary.

Meanwhile, the pro-Qaddafi Libyan ambassador to Moscow rejected the idea that Wednesday’s meetings could be aimed at finding a formula for Mr. Qaddafi to quit power.

“The political future of our country is an internal matter of Libya,” Amir Al Garib told the Moskovskie Novosti newspaper in an interview. “Not one foreign state has the right to interfere in our affairs.”

“I assure you that the leader of the Libyan revolution Muammar Qaddafi has no intention of leaving the state and will not discuss any proposals about this.”

He said that the main aim of Mr. Obeidi’s visit to Moscow was “finding peace.”

(Dina Al-Shibeeb, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English

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