France floats Gaddafi-can-stay option

Alain Juppe

From Reuters: France, keen to prevent Nato-led military action in Libya dragging on interminably, signalled on Wednesday that moves were afoot to let Muammar Gaddafi stay in his country as long as he commits to relinquishing power.

Analysts saw the idea as a first step, but not one that would on its own break the deadlock and end months of conflict.

French foreign minister Alain Juppe, whose country was the chief instigator of the intervention against Gaddafi, spelled out in unequivocal terms that foreign powers were now ready to make such a concession and move on to call a ceasefire. 

Juppe, interviewed on French LCI TV, said a UN envoy had been asked to coordinate contacts with the Gaddafi camp, after weeks in which rumours have swirled about the tenor of meetings with Gaddafi emissaries in Paris and elsewhere. "One of the scenarios effectively envisaged is that he stays in Libya on one condition which I repeat – that he very clearly steps aside from Libyan political life," Juppe said. "A ceasefire depends on Gaddafi committing clearly and formally to surrender his military and civilian roles."

The readiness to consider Gaddafi remaining in Libya as long as he stood aside was clearly motivated by an awareness that Gaddafi was determined to dig in for the long haul and that it would be hard, if not impossible, to flush him out of Tripoli.

"This is above all about the realisation that things on the ground are in stalemate, that the ‘hard-power’ strategy has its limits," said Karim Bitar, Middle East expert at the Paris-based think tank IRIS. He said that Gaddafi would at least demand immunity from prosecution in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and that his son Saif al Islam be promised a role in the future Libya – something the rebels would never swallow.

Photo: Getty Images

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