Former congressman Curt Weldon is expected to meet with Muammar Qaddafi in Libya Wednesday and says he plans to ask the embattled leader to step aside.
Weldon was part of a congressional delegation to Libya in 2004. His current visit is a private mission at the invitation of the Qaddafi government, but with the knowledge of the White House and members of congress, Weldon said in a New York Times op-ed Wednesday.
White House, State Department and congressional officials confirmed that Weldon's visit is not on behalf of the U.S. goverment. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said there are no plans to debrief Weldon upon his return..
In the op=ed, Weldon laments the United States' failure to engage leaders in Libya outside of Qaddafi himself and to encourage peaceful democratic reforms in recent years.
"There is no question that America should play a critical role in helping the Libyans build a new government," Weldon wrote. "Sadly, in the years since my first trip, Washington has squandered many opportunities to achieve that goal without bloodshed.
"Plans for a coordinated effort between Congress and Libyan legislators to nurture a new generation of Libyan leaders never developed. A plan to bring international nongovernmental organizations into Libya to develop its civil institutions never materialized," Weldon wrote. "Because both the Bush and Obama administrations failed to follow up on those initial efforts, today we have few contacts in the country's leadership beyond Colonel Qaddafi himself, and we have no strategic plan for Libya after he leaves."
Weldon said that engaging with Qaddafi remains important because "it will be very hard to simply bomb him into submission," and that his delegation will ask Qaddafi to resign and call for an immediate U.N.-monitored cease-fire.
He identified several "reform-minded leaders" who could step into fill the post-Qaddafi power vacuum, revising the constitution and creating a framework for democratic elections -- including Qaddafi's Western-educated son Saif.
"The younger Mr. Qaddafi, who has made belligerent comments about the rebels, has his detractors," Weldon wrote. "But he also pushed his government to accept responsibility for the bombings of a Pan Am flight over Scotland and a disco in Germany, and to provide compensation for victims' families"
Weldon, a republican from Pennsylvania, served in the House from 1997-2007.