Talks to focus on Libya ‘end-game’

2011-06-09 08:51

Misrata - Western and Arab nations meet in Abu Dhabi on Thursday to focus on what one US official called the "end-game" for Libya's Muammar Gaddafi as Nato once again stepped up the intensity of its air raids on Tripoli.

At the United Nations, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said its investigators had found evidence linking Gaddafi to a policy of raping opponents, while in the US Congress a bipartisan group proposed that President Barack Obama use frozen Libyan government assets to pay for humanitarian aid for Libyan people caught up in the civil war.

Nato air strikes resumed in Tripoli on Wednesday night after a lull that followed the heaviest day of bombings since March. Thousands of Gaddafi troops advanced on Misrata on Wednesday, shelling it from three sides and killing at least 12 rebels.

Ministers from the so-called Libya contact group, including the United States, France and Britain, as well as Arab allies Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan, agreed in May to set up a fund to help the rebels in the civil war.

They are expected to firm up this commitment in the United Arab Emirates capital and press the rebels to give a detailed plan on how they would run the country if Gaddafi stood down as leader of the oil producing North African desert state.

 "The international community is beginning to talk about what could constitute end-game to this," one senior US official told reporters aboard US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's plane which landed in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night.

"That would obviously include some kind of ceasefire arrangement and some kind of political process ... and of course the question of Gaddafi and perhaps his family is also a key part of that," the US official said.

Both Libya's rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) and its Western allies have rejected Libyan government ceasefire offers that do not include Gaddafi's departure, saying he and his family must relinquish power before any talks can begin.

The US official said there have been general discussions about what might happen to Gaddafi but nothing specific on "where he should go, or whether he should remain in Libya for that matter".

US officials on Wednesday announced delivery of the TNC's first US oil sale, part of a broader strategy they hope will get money flowing to the cash starved group.

US oil refiner Tesoro announced in May it had purchased the 1.2 million barrel cargo, which U.S. officials said was due to arrive in Hawaii on Wednesday aboard a tanker chartered by Swiss oil trader Vitol.

"Pressure will increase"

British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt, who will be at the Abu Dhabi talks, said the group would be briefed by the International Stabilisation Response Team which is helping the rebel council plan for post-conflict rebuilding.

"The contact group will also reiterate the unequivocal message ... that Gaddafi, his family and his regime have lost all legitimacy and must go so that the Libyan people can determine their own future," Burt said.

"Until Gaddafi does so, the pressure will increase across the board: economically, politically and militarily."

Nato defence ministers met in Brussels on Wednesday, but there were few signs of willingness to intensify their Libya mission, which after four months has failed to oust Gaddafi.

The alliance says the bombing aims to protect civilians from the Libyan leader's military, which crushed popular protests against his rule in February, leaving many dead. The conflict has now become a civil war.

Gaddafi says the rebels are a minority of Islamist militants and the NATO campaign is an attempt to grab Libya's oil.

At the United Nations, the ICC prosecutor said its investigators have evidence linking Gaddafi to a policy of raping opponents and may bring separate charges on the issue.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo requested arrest warrants on May 16 against Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and the country's spy chief on charges of crimes against humanity committed during attempts to crush the country's rebellion.

At a UN news conference on Wednesday, he said the question until recently had been whether Gaddafi himself could be associated with the rapes "or is it something that happened in the barracks?"

"But now we are getting some information that Gaddafi himself decided" to authorize the rapes, "and this is new," Moreno-Ocampo said.

In Washington, a group of leading Senate Democrats and Republicans said they were sponsoring a bill under which President Obama could use frozen Libyan government assets to pay for humanitarian aid to Libyan people caught up in the conflict.

"The ongoing violence in Libya has disrupted the economy and left far too many innocent Libyan citizens struggling to simply put food on the table and to manage the daily necessities of life," Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson said in a joint statement with the committee's senior Republican, Richard Shelby.

The United States is holding more than $34 billion as part of sanctions imposed in late February against Gaddafi and his top officials.

Gaddafi push on Misrata

On the battlefront, forces loyal to Gaddafi were staging a big push on Misrata. "He has sent thousands of troops from all sides and they are trying to enter the city. They are still outside, though, " rebel spokesperson Hassan al-Misrati told Reuters from inside the besieged town.

Another rebel spokesman in Misrata, called Mohammed, told Reuters late on Wednesday they were still in control of the city despite the assault.

Spain joined other Western and Arab governments in recognising the Benghazi-based council as the sole representative of the Libyan people.

Gaddafi troops and the rebels have been deadlocked for weeks, with neither side able to hold territory on a road between Ajdabiyah in the east, which Gaddafi forces shelled on Monday, and the Gaddafi-held oil town of Brega further west.

Rebels control the east of Libya, the western city of Misrata and the range of western mountains near the border with Tunisia. They have been unable to advance on the capital against Gaddafi's better-equipped forces.

  • Allo Allo - 2011-06-09 09:28

    Gaddafi has said that he will now fight to the death. There is also mounting eveidnece that he ordered mass rape and supplied troops with sexual enhancemnt drugs to carry out the order. There is now no benefit in prolonging a "death" strike on the man. The longer he remains the more lives (on both sides) will be lost/wasted. Where one there looked to be a exit strategy for Gadaffi to help reconcile the countries factions, there is now no use in any further diplomacy. Send in a mass of ground troops into Tripoli. Segregate any chance of Gaddafi support from the surounding dessert with air support. I am sure there is enough intelegence (maybe get some inside info from Zuma) to root out gaddafi and either get him and his cohorts to the Hague or take them out!!!

      Martin du Plessis - 2011-06-09 09:43

      I'd support you, but the world would once again jump onto the USses back if ground troops were sent into lybia (weather they send in troops or not) screaming "OIL OIL OIL". Yoou lnow how it is, damned if you do, damned if you don't. They should release ALL the money being kept frozen and give it to the rebels. That should speed up Ghadaffis demise (from a heart attack no doubt, "how dare they steal my hard stolen money and give it to the rightfull people of this country!")

      Anton - 2011-06-09 09:58

      Martin, well said. All that these supporters of dictators, tyrants and thugs want to do, is to blind us from the main issue, and that is that the Libyan people, after 40 years of tyranny , want to get rid off this Gaddafi family. They rather non stop, confront us , with garbage they copy from some cheap conspiracy sites.

  • tommy 2 - 2011-06-09 11:11

    Only if the rest of African Leaders had the balls like gadaffi. The rest of Africa would rather bow down to the west and beg for funding... This is so typical in Africa,and when the funds do come from THE west 1% of the population(corrupt officials) benefit....... The AU is now turning they backs on gadaffi,but he has done so much for Africa......... So long live the last King of Africa....... He will not bow to the West and its allies.......

      Anton - 2011-06-09 14:47

      Tommy2, you can talk such carbage. Lets look at AIDS in Africa. In a just released report by the United Nations, its stated that over the last few years, MORE THAN FIVE MILLION AFRICAN lives have been saved. This has mainly been achieved by the HUNDREDS OF MILLION DOLLARS (BILLIONS OF RANDS) America has donated to Africa. Luckily for these 5 million Africans, the USA did not wait for an African Solution!!!!!!!!!

      slg - 2011-06-14 16:49

      Why don't you go and live in Zimbabwe then. See what it's like to live under a dictator with your version o so-called balls. Have a good time there.

  • Spyker May - 2011-06-09 11:14

    Guys and girls, before you wrap-up and go home, just a few sorties down south to quickly "sort out" the other African Madman – Mugabe. PS - I do not want to put the cat amongst the pigeons (just yet), BUT, but, but, all the rape, pillage, murder and alike (that can NEVER be reversed, irrespective of the prosecution post the event) could have been avoided - by sending in a small team of SEALs with the appropriate corporate travel arrangements (viz those 'sweet' helicopters)... BUT, but, but, that would have caused an international outcry. BUT, but, but, tell me what is worse - the rape, pillage, murder and alike of hundreds-of-thousands or the quick execution of a madman..?

      Anton - 2011-06-09 14:38

      Spyker, well said, but what is now the ,,Arab Awakening,, will come south, and than we will have the ,,Africa Awakening,, The time for ALL African dictators, tyrants and thugs, is coming to an end. MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF AFRICANS, can't wait for this day !!

      tommy 2 - 2011-06-09 18:37

      @ANTON Now you are talking such crap...... You can go in your little corner and keep wishing for your african Awakening......

  • Anton - 2011-06-10 10:57

    Tommy2, No, you are wrong, that is not my wish at all. I wish these dictators, tyrants and thugs, who are leaders in many African countries, will realize themselves, that their game is over. Some years back, there was a ,,clean up,, in Eastern Europe, now it is happening in North africa and the Middle East, and for sure, Africans in Sub-Saharan Africa, who don't live in a democracy, will soon start demanding, that they to, want to choose their own polital leaders.

  • Mohammed - 2011-06-17 21:23

    We African must learn from our mistake.It is beater to build political institution then politica Hero. Remember the Rain never fall only on one preason. we should focus on our countries instret and stop blameind people.

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