|Hague, left, and Clinton, right, held talks with a leading member of Libya’s rebel council [Reuters]|
Global powers have held a meeting in London to discuss military action in Libya and to plan a post-Gaddafi future for the north African nation.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, told the conference that coalition military strikes would continue until Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, fully complies with UN demands to end violence against civilians.
She said the international community would work to boost pressure on and isolate his government to “make clear to Gaddafi that he must go.”
Foreign ministers from 35 countries, including seven Arab states, attended the meeting in the British capital, along with secretary-generals of the UN, NATO and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
They have so far agreed to set up a contact group to co-ordinate all international action on Libya.
The British foreign ministry said the first meeting of the group will be held in Qatar, though it is unclear when this would be.
Participating countries will take on a rotating chairmanship of the group.
It comes after Clinton and William Hague, the British foreign minister, held talks with a leading member of Libya’s rebel council, which has pledged to hold free elections if it prevailed.
Reports have also suggested that the US, Britain and France have sent special envoys to the rebel-held city of Beghazi, but these have not been officially confirmed.
Opening the talks on Tuesday, David Cameron, the British prime minister, told the parties there were “better days ahead for Libya” as he said coalition forces would continue their no-fly zone over the country.
“Today I believe should be about a new beginning for Libya – a future in which the people of Libya can determine their own destiny, free from violence and oppression,” he said.
“But the reason for being here today is that the Libyan people cannot reach that future on their own.”
Cameron said the international community would need to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid while also helping to plan for the future once the conflict is over.
World leaders speak on Libya
“When the fighting is over, we will need to put right the damage that Gaddafi has inflicted – repairing the hospitals ruined by shells, rebuilding the homes demolished by Gaddafi’s tank rounds, and restoring the mosques and minarets smashed by his barbarity,” he said.
Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s prime minister, urged Gaddafi to step down to halt bloodshed and said that the Libyan leader might only have a few days to negotiate an exit.
After the talks finished, Hague said that diplomats had not discussed arming the opposition to Gaddafi.
He added that Libya was under a UN-mandated arms embargo and that the restrictions “in our view apply to the whole of Libya”.
However, France said it was ready to discuss arming the Libyan opposition with its coalition partners, despite this not being part of the UN mandate.
Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, said: “I remind you it is not part of the UN resolution, which France sticks too, but we are ready to discuss it [arming] with our partners.”
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said on Tuesday she had discussed ways to extend financial help to the opposition Libyan National Council but that possible arms tranfers were not discussed.
She said that while the US had made no decisions on possible arms transfers, it believed that the UN mandate could allow for “a legitimate transfer of arms if a country were to choose to do that”.
Tim Friend, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in London, said suggestions such as these illustrated the questions leaders were having to grapple with.
“The question is how far do you go? If Gaddafi’s forces are fighting back do you then step up the response, and if so how far do you take it?
“These are matters of degrees and they’re very tricky questions. There are many different perspectives on it,” he said.
Speaking before the conference began, Franco Frattini, Italy’s foreign minister, said several nations planned to table a joint deal aimed at swiftly ending the conflict in Libya including setting out proposals for a ceasefire, exile for Gaddafi and a framework for talks on Libya’s future.
But Hague said international powers were “not in control” of where Gaddafi might go if he went into exile.
“I’m not going to choose Colonel Gaddafi’s retirement home,” he told BBC radio. “Where he goes, if he goes, is up to him and the people of Libya to determine and we will not necessarily be in control of that.”
Turkey, which has offered to attempt to mediate between the two sides, has also said the talks would gauge international support for scenarios under which Gaddafi could quit, including whether he could appoint another person in his place.
Gaddafi called on foreign powers to end their “barbaric offensive” against Libya, in a letter addressed to the London conference, and likened the NATO-led air strikes to military campaigns launched by Adolf Hitler during World War II.
A spokesperson for the British foreign office said it would not dignify the letter with any further comment.
Khaled Kaim, Libya’s deputy foreign minister, also told a news conference in Tripoli on Monday that foreign leaders had no right to attempt to impose a new political system on the country.
“Libya is an independent country with full sovereignty,” he said.
“The Libyan people are the only ones that have the right decide the country’s future, and planning division of Libya or imposing a foreign political system is not accepted.”
“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.
Earlier on Tuesday, Clinton and Hague, met Mahmoud Jibril, a leading member of the Libyan opposition in London.
The meeting is another sign that the US administration is looking to expand ties with rebel leaders, but an official stressed it did not constitute formal recognition of the opposition.
Hague said the Libyan transitional council was an “important and legitimate political interlocutor” but that Britain was committed to strengthening ties with a “wide range of members of the Libyan opposition”.
Libya’s rebel National Council has promised to build a free, democratic nation if it prevailed, in an eight-point statement.
It also said it would draft a national constitution allowing the formation of political parties and trades unions.
Ahmed Khalifa, a spokesman for the rebel movement, told a news conference in Benghazi he expected the London conference to create more pressure for Gaddafi to leave.
“The national council rejects any negotiations with Gaddafi or his family … No one at this [London] conference is defending Gaddafi, he has lost his legitimacy,” he said.
Source: News Agencies