Gadhafi Peace Plan Not Deemed 'Credible'

Monday, 04 Apr 2011 11:48 AM

 

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Peace proposals by Moammar Gadhafi insisting on a future political role for his family are almost certainly non-starters but may buy Libya's leader the time he needs to drive a wedge in coalition ranks.

Gadhafi's chances of stirring interest in an interim political settlement may improve if a military stalemate endures, making his hopes for his sons seem less unrealistic.

Diplomatic activity generated by his proposals may act as a stalling tactic that wins him time to build defences in his western strongholds, shore up tribal loyalties and divide and weaken the international coalition.

But there is no sign he has won broad interest in the West for his terms for ending a war threatening to destabilise an oil- and gas-rich region on Europe's southern flank. The notion of any role for the Gadhafi family in government is simply too much for his foes to stomach, analysts say.

Sources familiar with three scenarios floated by Gadhafi for an interim settlement say they share two unacceptable features — that Gadhafi remain as a sort of national figurehead, albeit retired, and that one of his sons take a role in a unity government with the opposition, possibly as leader.

Experts on Libya said the proposals were not realistic.

"It can't be done," said Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Tripoli.

"As soon as Gadhafi steps down, his sons are dead in the water politically, because it's Gadhafi who calls the shots.

"In theory, according to Gadhafi, he's already a figurehead and holds no official role, so it should not matter if he stays or goes. The reality, however, is otherwise."

A diplomat familar with the discussions said: "Various scenarios are being discussed . . . Everyone wants a quick solution.

"Gadhafi's entourage wants to preserve the regime by all means, even if it means sharing power with one of the sons or stepping down symbolically."

Italy, once Gadhafi's closest Western partner, dismissed a message carried by an envoy of the Libyan leader about ways of halting the fighting and said Gadhafi must leave power.

Speaking after meeting Ali Essawi, a member of the Libyan rebel council, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said a divided Libya was not acceptable and the rebel council was the only legitimate interlocutor.

He described proposals carried to Greece on Sunday by Deputy Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi as "not credible".

Essawi said the idea of some form of transitional government headed by one of Gadhafi's sons was "not an option".

Obeidi was due later in Turkey, a Muslim NATO member which has said it is seeking to broker a ceasefire.

A North African political analyst, who declined to be identified due to the sensitiviy of the subject, said one of Gadhafi's proposals was for his son Saif al-Islam to take over as interim leader pending political reforms to be negotiated with the Libyan opposition, and for Gadhafi himself to retire.

Saif al-Islam, Gadhafi's most prominent son, has in the past advocated reforms to promote government transparency and accoutability, free enterprise and human rights. But he delivered a jarring television address early in the conflict, warning Libyans against revolt.

Gadhafi has described the rebels as "armed gangs" backed by al-Qaida and said they are bent on terrorising ordinary Libyans, who he says support him and his rule.

For their part, the rebels have refused any talks with Gadhafi except to discuss the manner of his departure from power after more than four decades of ruling the North African state.

Saad Djebbar, a former legal adviser to the Libyan government, said it was likely that the flurry of peace feelers from Tripoli were just Gadhafi's way of buying more time.

"He has said repeatedly in public during this crisis that he is a long-term player while he see his enemies as short-term players. He needs time and he feels he can get it this way."

A drawn-out conflict might hurt the coalition's ambitions just as much as Gadhafi's, if not more.

Without effective diplomacy to end the war, suggested Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Gadhafi's rhetoric portraying the coalition as Western crusaders could find an increasingly receptive Arab audience even though some Arab countries are fighting alongside Western forces.

In a commentary, Joshi said the underlying reality was that "the Arab presence is a thin veneer over another transatlantic war, and that veneer is one that will be worn away further over time without a heroic diplomatic effort".

In the battle for leverage in any future negotiations, the West has not always played its cards adroitly.

The coalition scored a public relations coup last week when Gadhafi's foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, defected to Britain, a move seen as likely to demoralise Gadhafi's encourage.

But other loyalists may not follow his example because Britain has said publicly Koussa would not be granted immunity from prosecution for any terrorism acts tied to Libya.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said British officials would meet Scottish prosecutors on Monday to arrange a police interview with Koussa over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing in which 270 people were killed.

Djebbar said Britain's treatment of Koussa was "a gift to Gadhafi. Gadhafi will point to that and say to his followers 'you'd be better off staying with me'."

Miles agreed that the treatment of Koussa would have discouraged those wanting to defect. "It would have been better to say nothing in public about immunity at all," he said.

 

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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