/ 8 April 2011

UK lifts ban on Libyan officials

Britain will lift its ban on members of the Libyan regime entering the United Kingdom if they renounce their loyalty to Muammar Gaddafi, the foreign secretary, William Hague, said this week.

The decision came as David Cameron announced an increase in Tornado strike aircraft to be deployed to hit Gaddafi’s forces while on a visit to the airbase in southern Italy where British pilots are stationed as they police the no-fly zone in Libya. Four extra jets will join the mission, making a total of 12.

In Tripoli, the Libyan government was “optimistic” that a political outcome to the crisis could be found, spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim said, adding that the regime was “the most positive party in the whole conflict”. Its envoy, deputy foreign minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, arrived in the Turkish capital, Ankara, as part of a three-country tour, reportedly with a message that Libya was willing to negotiate a way out of the military impasse.

Obeidi’s visits, combined with unconfirmed reports that two of Gaddafi’s sons are proposing a transition to a constitutional democracy, suggest that significant elements of the regime may be ready to broker a deal on Libya’s future.

However, the Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, dismissed Obeidi’s proposals, demanding that Gaddafi must relinquish power.

The Libyan opposition and most of the international community say there can be no political deal without the departure of Gaddafi and his sons.

Shamsuddin Abdulmelah, spokesman for the opposition in Benghazi, said: “Gaddafi and his sons have to leave before any diplomatic negotiations can take place.” Italy joined France and Qatar in recognising the rebel government in the east of the country. It said that the interim transitional national council, which represents the rebels in the east, was the international community’s only legitimate interlocutor.

Hague said Libya had no future while Gaddafi remained in power and that the international community must keep up the pressure. “The world is united in believing that the Gaddafi regime has lost all legitimacy and that he must go, allowing the Libyan people to determine their own future,” he said.

The defection last week of Libya’s foreign minister and Gaddafi confidant, Moussa Koussa, “exposes its utter lack of legitimacy even in the eyes of those most closely associated with it in the past”.

Hague said coalition military action, humanitarian aid and diplomatic contacts with the rebel government would continue.

Libyan ministers and officials who are prepared to abandon the regime would be “treated with respect and in accordance with our laws”, he said.

Koussa was refused formal leave to enter the UK because of sanctions, but was granted temporary admission and met by officials. — Guardian News & Media 2011