Former congressman Curt Weldon is expected to meet with Muammar Qaddafi in Libya sometime this week, and says he plans to ask the embattled leader to step aside.
Weldon was part of a congressional delegation to Libya in 2004 and has visited the country several times. 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 told CBS News producer Ben Plesser and a reporter from the Wall Street Journal.
Sitting in the lobby of his hotel in Tripoli Wednesday, the former congressman seemed aware of the fact that his visit to Libya, and his meeting with Muammar Qaddafi would draw criticism back home.
"I'm not here to argue about whether I'm allowed to be here," Weldon said. "I'm not doing anything illegal. No one's paying me to be here. I'm here because I want to do something positive. And I want to help my government get out of what is a very difficult situation. I'm not here to undermine Barack Obama."
Weldon emphasized that his visit was a personal one, saying: "I'm not here on behalf of our country. Only the Secretary of State can do that. I'm a Republican, but I have respect for Hilary Clinton. I'm here to set forward ideas that hopefully would allow them to come together on a legitimate, immediate plan to cease the bombing on both sides."
Weldon, who has very close ties with the Qaddafi family, says that he was invited by the Libyans.
"I know Libya, and I know the people here," Weldon said. "I know the leader and the leader trusts me. He wouldn't have had his Chief of Staff reach out to me and invite me here if he didn't trust me"
Since arriving in Tripoli last night, Weldon has had two meetings with Al-Saadi, Qaddafi's third son who has been working in recent years to draw foreign investors to Libya. Weldon was originally expecting to meet with Qaddafi himself today, but their meeting has been delayed. Weldon says the message to him will be very clear: he has to step aside. Weldon floated the idea that, to save face, Qaddafi could take a ceremonial role at the head of the African Union.
Weldon also argued that Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi, the son who has become the regime's most vocal defender, should not be excluded from the future leadership of his country. "I don't think Saif should be excluded from running for office in a new government where there are free and fair elections," he said, and suggested that, under his proposal, the elections should take place in a year's time.
In a New York Times op-ed Wednesday, Weldon wrote: "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 also said in the op-ed that engaging with Qaddafi remains important because "it will be very hard to simply bomb him into submission."
Weldon, a republican from Pennsylvania, served in the House from 1997-2007.
The Associated Press contributed some information to this post.