Tuesday, March 29, 2011

London Talks to Lay Ground for Post-Gadhafi Libya

World powers meet in London Tuesday to try to map out the political future for a Libya without leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Some 40 foreign ministers are taking part in the conference, which is aimed at seeking a plan for Gadhafi's exit from power. A number of Arab states are scheduled to participate, as well as representatives of the Arab League and the African Union.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is attending the London gathering and was also preparing to meet Libyan opposition envoy Mahmoud Jibril in the city.

A senior Obama administration official said Tuesday that the U.S. will send its own envoy to Libya soon to meet with rebel leaders. The official said U.S. diplomat Chris Stevens will travel to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to establish better ties with groups seeking to oust Gadhafi. The move does not constitute formal recognition of the opposition.

Britain, meanwhile, hopes the London meeting will strengthen the international commitment to the United Nations-authorized military action in Libya. The gathering will also focus on coordinating humanitarian assistance to the North African nation.

On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for Gadhafi to step down and urged his followers to abandon him before it is, in their words, "too late." In a joint statement, the two leaders urged all Libyans who believe that Gadhafi is leading Libya into a disaster to organize a transition process.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has proposed a deal that would include a cease-fire, exile for Mr. Gadhafi and a framework for talks between rebels and tribal leaders.

Russia has opposed the international military intervention in Libya, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying Monday that the coalition attacks on pro-Gadhafi forces have gone beyond what was authorized by the U.N.

NATO has agreed to take control of the military mission in Libya, but NATO commanders say they are not taking sides in the conflict. They say arming Libyan rebels is not an option, even if coalition airstrikes are allowing the rebels to advance on government-controlled areas.

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