Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Libyan, Arab, and Western sources have stated to Asharq Al-Awsat that secret attempts are under way to persuade Colonel Mummer Gaddafi to step down in return for a safe passage for him, his family, and senior aides.
An Arab diplomat, familiar with the ongoing contacts between Western officials and aides close to Gaddafi told Asharq Al-Awsat that there are differences of views within Gaddafi’s inner circle on closing a political deal that allows Colonel Gaddafi to leave Libya in return for pledges from the National Transitional Council [NTC], the representative of the rebels opposed to him, as well as guarantees from the Western coalition states that they will not seek to arrest, assassinate, or bring him to court on charges of committing war crimes. This diplomat, who asked not to be identified, said that during a recent meeting with officials close to Gaddafi in Tripoli, he heard talk of the need to find a solution to stop the bloodshed. He said that he also heard insinuations that Gaddafi may leave if he receives such guarantees. He added: “For the Libyan rebels, they do not have any objection, but NATO and the Western coalition states do not endorse a definite stance. They want him to leave at any price, but will not ensure him an honorable exit from power under any circumstances.”
Officials in the NTC said that chieftains of the Gaddafifah tribe, to which Gaddafi belongs, proposed to him to hand over power to members of the historical Libyan Revolution Command Council, which was formed after the coup of 1969, or to the Libyan People’s Congress (parliament)as a way out of the volatile political and military crisis. However, it seems that aides close to Gaddafi objected to the idea of him giving up power voluntarily without obtaining guarantees that will ensure his and his family’s personal safety.
An official in Gaddafi’s government told Asharq Al-Awsat that a secret dialogue is under way through informal channels between members of Gaddafi’s inner circle and former Western officials and diplomats, who are connected to the decision-making circles in the Western coalition states, to find out a peaceful, political solution to end the Libyan crisis. This official, who declined to be identified, said that Gaddafi received Western signals to the effect that “the game is over, that he is no longer an acceptable political partner, that he can leave for any African country of his choice that is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court agreement, and that he will in no way be pursued by the judiciary.” He said that these messages were conveyed to Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul-Ati al-Ubaydi, Chief of the Libyan Intelligence Agency, Abu-Zayd Durdah, and Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmudi.
In a related development, aides to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Colonel Gaddafi’s second son, told Asharq Al-Awsat that unpublicized contacts were under way with some of his Western friends in the same context, but refused to give more details. While the Western states have officially closed all publicized dialogue channels with Gaddafi’s regime, efforts and negotiations occasionally take place away from the limelight thorough mediators. An official connected to these contacts said that “Gaddafi’s regime seeks the help of old friends to send messages to the Western states. These channels also allow the Western states to send counter messages.” This source added: “This is a role similar to a postman’s with one party conveying a certain viewpoint and another conveying his stance on the other party’s viewpoint. However, there is nothing official, and the Western governments do not want to been seen holding a dialogue with a regime of a man (Gaddafi) whom they seek to overthrow militarily.”
Libyan sources disclosed that aides close to Gaddafi were seeking to persuade him to accept one of two proposals to secure him and his family a safe exit after he steps down after a 42-year rule. They said that the first proposal provides that Gaddafi hand over power to the still alive members of the Revolution Command Council, which was formed after the military coup that overthrew the late King Idris al-Sanusi’s regime, as some of them are acceptable locally and internationally. This council will later assume, in cooperation with the NTC, the task of rehabilitating the country for presidential and parliamentary elections. This source added that the second proposal provides that Gaddafi hand over power to the parliament speaker, Muhammad al-Zawi, provided that the latter assign the NTC the task of forming a transitional government to run the country after Gaddafi steps down.
However, Abdul-Munim al-Huni, NTC representative to Cairo, and one of the members of the historical Libyan Revolution Command Council, told Asharq Al-Awsat that he had heard of ongoing unpublicized talk in this respect, but that he cannot deny or confirm the truth of this talk. He added: “We need to listen to this talk from the man in question, namely Gaddafi himself. He has to act rationally and logically; suffice it the destruction he has wreaked in Libya throughout the years of his rule.”
Sources informed of the details and of the behind-the-scenes discussions, which have recently been held in Tripoli between Gaddafi and members of Gaddafifah tribe and prominent aides close to him, told Asharq Al-Awsat that these discussions were characterized by occasional sharp exchanges. They pointed out that those seeking to persuade Gaddafi to leave now told him that he no longer has anything to stay for in the country, now that he has lost Libya’s eastern region, while NATO aircraft are escalating military operations against his military forces and security regiments.
These sources said that prominent figures of Gaddafifah tribe told Colonel Gaddafi bluntly that it was time for him to quit and admit defeat, and that it is better for him, his family, and his tribe that he accept any political solution that enables him to have a safe exit and avoid judicial and international pursuit by any Libyan or Western party. These sources cited those figures as saying that they told Gaddafi that “time was no longer in your favor; we fear the prospect of your being killed along with members of your family, and we fear the prospect of a large-scale revenge attacks against Gaddafifah tribe. Therefore, you have to consider your personal interest as well as your family’s interest and stop the bloodshed in Libya.”
These sources, which asked not to be identified, because of what they described as the sensitivity of their position, stressed that Gaddafi’s relatives also told him that it was impossible for him to continue to lead Libya from an underground hideout at his fortified headquarters at Bab al-Aziziyah barracks.
In another development, the Libyan Foreign Ministry yesterday hinted for the first time that Gaddafi’s regime was opening dialogue channels with separatist groups in a number of countries, which are members of the Western coalition and NATO, in retaliation for the growing relations between the rebels and these states. The official Libyan News Agency, JANA, cited Libyan Foreign Ministry sources as saying that they are watching with interest the suspicious visits and contacts with armed rebels in Libya’s eastern region by officials of certain countries. They said these suspicious visits and contacts constitute a flagrant violation of international law, encroachment on the Libyan people’s sovereignty, blatant interference in Libya’s domestic affairs, and support for separatist rebels under flimsy pretexts.
The Libyan Foreign Ministry sources also said that these violations and interferences in Libya’s domestic affairs and encroachment on the Libyan people sovereignty give the Libyan people the right to start contacts with movements demanding independence in Cape Verdi, Madeira, Azure and Canary islands. They said Libya also has the right to support the struggle for the liberation of Ceuta and Melilla; seek alliance with the Basque region, support efforts for Scotland’s independence, and for the return of Lambidoza and Pantelleria islands to their motherland of Tunisia. They added that Libya would ally itself with Corsica and emphasize its right to freedom and independence; and will also support the struggle of the revolutionaries in the Casmance region in Senegal, who are demanding freedom and independence.
Gaddafi received two telephone calls from Malian President Ahmadou Toumani Toure and Guinean President Malam Bakaya. Libyan official media outlets said that the Malian president renewed his and his people’s solidarity with the Libyan people and their leader in their heroic defiance and courageous confrontation of the aggression imposed on them. He reasserted Mali’s commitment to the African Union’s initiative on Libya, stressing that Libyan affairs solely concern first the Libyan people and second Africa, as Libya is a founding member of the African Union. The Libyan media outlets cited the Guinean president as stressing his and his country’s categorical rejection of foreign interference in Libya’s domestic affairs, and their adherence to the African Union’s initiative on Libya.
In another development, the Libyan Foreign Ministry addressed an appeal to all Libyan ambassadors and diplomats who have defected from Gaddafi’s regime to again report to duty, pledging not to pursue them or take any legal or disciplinary action against anyone who responds to this appeal. In a statement, a copy of which was received by Asharq Al-Awsat, the Libyan Foreign Ministry said it would also facilitate the return of dissidents to the homeland to join their families and relatives, and would provide them with every necessary assistance they may need.