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'Gaddafi ready to go', says France

Staff Reporter

Widespread discussions were being held between Tripoli and other countries to end the crisis in Libya but there were no full-scale negotiations.

Widespread discussions were being held between Tripoli and other countries to end the crisis in Libya but there were no full-scale negotiations, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said on Tuesday.

“Everybody is in contact with everybody. The Libyan regime is sending messengers everywhere, to Turkey, New York, Paris. There are contacts but it’s not a negotiation proper at this stage,” Juppé said on France Info state radio.

“Emissaries are telling us Gaddafi is ready to go, let’s talk about it,” he said, without saying who the emissaries were, and he repeated calls for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to step down.

“The question is no longer about whether Gaddafi goes but when and how,” Juppé said.

Speaking on France’s Europe 1 radio, French Prime Minister François Fillon also reiterated that Gaddafi must quit.

“He must go. He must at least surrender power. After that, it’s up to the Libyan people to decide,” Fillon said.

Leaders of Libya’s rebel transition council are due to meet Nato and European Union officials in Brussels this week and France is growing impatient with the lack of progress on reaching a political solution to the crisis in Libya.

Political solution
France is growing impatient with the lack of progress on reaching a political solution.

Remarks by Defence Minister Gerard Longuet saying rebels should start direct negotiations with Gaddafi’s camp, and a report that Paris was talking to the Libyan leader, pointed to a growing restlessness in Paris about the stalemate.

But French officials denied any shift in position and said Paris had merely sent messages to Tripoli via intermediaries making clear the Libyan leader must relinquish power and withdraw his troops to enable a political solution.

“There are no direct negotiations between France and the Gaddafi regime, but we pass messages through the rebel council (TNC) and our allies,” foreign ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero said, asked about comments by Saif al-Islam, one of Gaddafi’s sons, saying Tripoli was in talks with the French government.

“France wants a political solution, like we have always said,” Valero said in an online media briefing.

“There is no change of course in the French position,” a defence ministry source said, asked about Longuet’s remarks.

Concerned about the mounting cost of the military campaign and the prospect of it running on into the start of a 2012 election campaign, France wants the opposition rebels it is supporting to do more to help end the conflict, as it struggles to make headway in its own dialogue with Gaddafi’s camp.

‘Dialogue between deaf people’
“So far, it’s been like a dialogue between deaf people, they are not on the same page,” the source said, adding: “For Sarkozy, it’s unthinkable that Gaddafi remain in Libya or a neighbouring country. He is insistent.”

Analysts say the financial and political cost of the Libyan air campaign are putting France and Britain under pressure, as the campaign they spearheaded heads toward its fifth month.

“For France and Britain, the reality of the mission is setting in. It is clear therefore that Paris is moving ahead on negotiations with Gaddafi, floating the possibility of leaving [him] in the country,” said Stratfor analyst Marko Papic.

He said the political costs of leaving Gaddafi’s camp in control of Western Libya could be lower for the allies than the cost of continuing with military action stuck in stalemate.

“What this really means is that Paris is also willing to accept a divided Libya, since nobody takes seriously the suggestion that Gaddafi would stay in Libya, but give up his powers. Whatever happens to Gaddafi, his loyalists continue to be entrenched in the West, while the rebels continue to be unable to force him out of his stronghold. This then is the status quo that the Europeans seem willing to accept.”

No change of course
Longuet is known for sometimes speaking out of line, but his remarks were nonetheless an indication that France is growing restless.

“The underlying fear remains a protracted campaign that intrudes on to the French election season, embarrassing Sarkozy and leaving the French [and British] isolated,” said Shashank Joshi of Britain’s Royal United Services Institute. - Reuters

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