U.S. Offer Would Keep Gaddafi in Libya, but Out of Power

Jeffrey Feltman, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East in Benghazi, May 24, 2011

From Helene Cooper and John F. Burns, the New York Times:  With Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi showing no signs, so far, of yielding to Western demands, diplomats from the United States, Britain and France have adopted a new tactic in recent days : offering the besieged leader the opportunity to remain in Libya if he dissolves the government and steps aside.

But the offer, conveyed by American diplomats to Libyan government officials during a July 16 meeting in Tunis, came with a huge caveat: rebels based in eastern Libya would have to agree. The rebels have expressed mixed views on that possibility, and they seemed to reject it on Wednesday. Reuters reported that Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the rebel leader, told reporters in Benghazi, Libya: "This offer is no longer valid. . . ."

And finally, Colonel Qaddafi himself would have to be persuaded that he would not end up in the same boat as his neighbor to the east, Hosni Mubarak, the deposed president of Egypt, who is facing trial on charges that could carry the death penalty.

But the offer reflects the muddled state of the Western offensive in Libya, and the failure, so far, of Libyan rebels to successfully press the advantage they received when the NATO bombing campaign began four months ago. Colonel Qaddafi has vowed that he will die on Libyan soil, rebuffing demands from the West to leave. . . .

Jeffrey D. Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, met in Tunis with members of Colonel Qaddafi’s government to deliver that message, the official said.

State Department officials initially described the meeting as an effort to deliver a “simple and unambiguous message” that “Qaddafi must leave power so that a new political process can begin that reflects the will and aspirations of the Libyan people.”

But on Wednesday American and European officials said there was also discussion during the meeting on July 16 of the possibility that Colonel Qaddafi could remain in Libya, providing he stepped down.   (photo: Reuters)

Image: reuters%207%2028%2011%20Jeffrey%20D.%20Feltman.jpg