NATO flexible on Gaddafi’s future

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Britain

From Joby Warrick and William Booth, the Washington Post:  Western powers are signaling an increased willingness to allow Moammar Gaddafi to remain in Libya if he agrees to step down after nearly 42 years as the country’s autocratic ruler, diplomats said Tuesday.

Britain this week became the third NATO member to say that Gaddafi might be permitted to stay if Libyan rebels were willing to accept his presence in the country under a deal. Some officials of the rebels’ Transitional National Council have suggested that they could accept having Gaddafi remain in Libya if he relinquished all political power.

“Obviously, him leaving Libya itself would be the best way of showing the Libyan people that they no longer have to live in fear, but as I have said all along, this is ultimately a question for Libyans to determine,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters Monday night before talks with his French counterpart, Alain Juppe. . . .

Juppe said last week that France is open to a deal under which Gaddafi would quit as leader but remain in the country — a potentially crucial concession, given Gaddafi’s repeated refusal to accept exile in another country. Hours later, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Gaddafi must quit as leader “and then it’s up to the Libyan people to decide. . . .”

As NATO operations in Libya entered their fifth month, alliance officials acknowledged that there was little evidence that Gaddafi was preparing to leave soon. “He’s sitting pretty tight in Tripoli,” a senior NATO official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “They’re still confident, and they’ve got plenty of capability.”

The official said initial demands by NATO states “may have overmatched the military perspective” from the beginning.  (photo: AP)

Image: ap%207%2027%2011%20Clinton%20Hague.jpg