Leaders weigh Qaddafi's exit, Libya's future
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street in London March 29, 2011. / AP
Updated 1:57 p.m. ET
LONDON - International leaders struggled Tuesday to devise an endgame for Muammar Qaddafi's tottering regime, deciding only to establish a group to coordinate all international action in Libya.
The first meeting of the group will be in Qatar and participating countries will take on a rotating chairmanship, Britain's Foreign Office said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Arab League, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen and up to 40 foreign ministers attended the talks in London, seeking to ratchet up the pressure on Qaddafi to quit.
In his opening speech, Cameron said the conference would sketch out how the world could help Libya on a path to a post-Qaddafi rule, although the assembled leaders' progress to that end was limited.
Clinton opened her remarks to the conference invoking a meeting of international leaders in Paris a week ago.
"Since that meeting, we've prevented a potential massacre, established a no-fly zone, stopped an advancing army, added more partners to this coalition, and transferred command of the military effort to NATO," she said. "That's not bad for a week's work."
Clinton said that the coalition military action will continue until Qaddafi fully complies with U.N. Security Council demands by ending all attacks on civilians, pulling back troops and allowing services and humanitarian assistance to reach all the people of Libya.
Still, Clinton said, "We know that long-term progress in Libya will not be accomplished through military means." She told the conference that countries must work together, using political and diplomatic pressure to isolate the Qaddafi regime and ensure that Libya "belongs not to a dictator, but to its people."
But she warned that change would not be easily won.
"Under different governments, under different circumstances, people are expressing the same basic aspirations: A voice in their government, an end to corruption, freedom from violence and fear, the chance to live in dignity and to make the most of their God-given talents," Clinton said. "These goals are not easily achieved. But they are, without question, worth working for together."
Cameron said Britain had received reports that Qaddafi was pounding Misrata, the main rebel holdout in the west, with attacks from land and sea, and relentlessly targeting civilians.
"Qaddafi is using snipers to shoot them down and let them bleed to death in the street. He has cut off food, water and electricity to starve them into submission," Cameron said.
Outside the summit, about 70 protesters held pro-Qaddafi placards, sounded bullhorns and led chants of "Hands off Libya!" One placard read: "We can resolve our problems without you."
Representatives of one anti-Qaddafi group, the Interim National Council, called meetings earlier Tuesday with Clinton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague "very constructive." It was not attending the main conference.
"We are very happy and satisfied with the results that we got today," added Guma El-Gamaty, council's U.K. coordinator.
Mahmoud Shammam, a council spokesman, outlined the group's vision for a post-Qaddafi Libya.
"The aspirations of the Libyan people are to be free, to live under a constitutional democratic system," Shammam told a press conference. "(We have) had enough of tyranny."
Clinton told reporters that the international community is "building an understanding" with the transitional council and that it would expect transparency in the days and months to come.
The international community, however, remains divided. Even nations that backed the internationally enforced no-fly zone to protect civilians in Libya are far from unanimous on what to do next.
Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said several nations are behind a proposal to swiftly end the conflict, setting out plans for a cease-fire, exile for Qaddafi and a framework for talks on Libya's future between tribal leaders and opposition figures.
Turkey, which has offered to mediate a permanent cease-fire, said the London talks should gauge international support for scenarios under which Qaddafi could go into exile.
But British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the meeting was "not going to choose Col. Qaddafi's retirement home."
"Of course where he goes, if he goes, is up to him and the people of Libya to determine," he said.
Frattini suggested earlier that several African counties could offer Qaddafi a haven, but African Union chairman Jean Ping decided not to attend the London conference.
U.N. special envoy Abdelilah al-Khatib, a former Jordanian foreign minister, is returning to Libya to hold talks with Qaddafi's regime and opposition figures.
In tandem with the meeting in London, a senior Obama administration official told CBS Radio News correspondent Cami McCormick that the White House will soon dispatch an envoy to meet - in rebel-Libya - with leaders of the rebels fighting Qaddafi's forces.
The envoy, diplomat Chris Stevens, will travel to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to "increase practical connections," the official said. According to the Associated Press, the move doesn't constitute formal recognition of the opposition by the White House.
Hague and Clinton met with Libyan opposition envoy Mahmoud Jibril of the Interim National Council, which has pledged to work toward new presidential and parliamentary elections after Qaddafi's ouster, uphold human rights, draft a national constitution and encourage the formation of political parties.
Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a joint statement, said Jibril's council could play a key role in deciding Libya's future but stressed it would likely not be the only party involved. They urged Qaddafi loyalists to seize a final chance to abandon the dictator and side with those seeking political reform.
Libya's deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim told a news conference in Tripoli that foreign leaders had no right to attempt to impose a new political system on the country. "The Libyan people are the only ones that have the right to decide the country's future," he told reporters.
Kaim called on nations at the London talks to agree on a peace deal.
"We call upon Obama and the Western leaders to be peacemakers not warmongers, and not to push Libyans towards a civil war and more death and destruction," he said.
The diplomatic push by the U.S. and its international partners comes hours after President Obama took to the nation's airwaves to defend his decision to involve the U.S. military in Libya's power struggle.
Mr. Obama said that, while the "world will be better off with Qaddafi out of power," broadening the U.S. mission to include regime change would be a "mistake." He allowed that he and other world leaders would pursue regime change in Libya through "non-military means."
"While our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people," Obama said.
Appearing on CBS' "The Early Show" Tuesday, Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that the long-term U.S. point of view is that Qaddafi needs to go and the Libyan people must have the opportunity to determine their own future.
"There are non-military means at our disposal to pursue that goal and we'll use [them]," she said. "We are using sanctions. We've imposed an arms embargo. We are cutting off all of Qaddafi's sources and funds to his regime, cutting off the flow of mercenaries. We are providing assistance and will continue to provide assistance to the opposition."
"But it may not happen overnight," Rice said. "Recall that in the Balkans after we fought Milosevic in Bosnia and Kosovo, it was many months, even over a year before he stepped down from power."
Also appearing on "The Early Show," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said President Obama should use any means necessary to remove Qaddafi from power in Libya.
"Qaddafi in power is unacceptable, according to the president's own words," McCain said. "So we should use any means to bring him down. And we could do that without, I think, too much difficulty - nobody wants to die for Qaddafi."
The London meeting was also to address disputes over the scope of NATO-led coalition airstrikes and to more clearly define the extent of cooperation between Libya's rebel groups and international military commanders.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov who was not at the talks says the international air campaign that began March 19 has breached the terms of the U.N. resolution that authorized the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya.
Cameron insists the coalition had not gone beyond its mandate, but acknowledged the impact had been to force Qaddafi's military into a retreat from a number of key towns.
Sweden, which is not a full member of NATO, said it will send up to eight JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets to help NATO enforce the no-fly zone, but said the planes cannot be used to attack ground targets in Libya.
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