World decides Libyan future in London

As the air strikes over Libya continued, world powers gathered in London to discuss the future of the embattled state, piling pressure on Muammar Gaddafi to step down.

The participants in the meeting agreed that the sanctions against Muammar Gaddafi and his supporters should be toughened, and that Gaddafi himself should step down immediately and leave the country.  The UN is to dispatch special envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah to meet Gaddafi in Libya in order to discuss his resignation and departure from the country.  Ould-Abdallah will also meet opposition representatives in Benghazi.

The question of supplying Libyan rebels with weaponry was not raised during the discussion, according to US State Secretary Hillary Clinton.

A number of heavy-weights attended the meeting: British Prime Minister David Cameron, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, members of the Arab League, members of the African Union and 35 foreign ministers. Russia, which has advocated for a ceasefire in Libya, was not invited to the conference.

Delegates from Libya’s Interim Transitional National Council that represents the opposition movement also arrived in London, whereas members of the Libyan government did not.

Director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, Dr Azzam Tamimi, called the absence of the Libyan government at the conference a “real dilemma,” which accords with some of the members’ desire to see Gaddafi leave.

Some of the members of this international coalition have already discounted Gaddafi and his regime and recognized the leaders of the rebels as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people,” Tammimi said. “Remember that this started with a very limited mandate to impose a no-fly zone, then very quickly progressed into bombardment of Gaddafi’s forces in order to tilt the balance in favor of the rebels.”

A senior American official has said that the US was willing to accept a deal under which Muammar Gaddafi flees Libya without facing war crimes charges, the Guardian newspaper reported earlier.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the meeting that the Libyan leader has lost his legitimacy and that the international community should support Libyans’ striving for democracy.

"All of us must continue to increase the pressure on and deepen the isolation of the Gaddafi regime through other means as well," Clinton said. "This includes a unified front of political and diplomatic pressure that makes clear to Gaddafi that he must go."

In his recent address, however, US President Barack Obama said “Gaddafi was not the ultimate target,” while his critics said that actions on the ground seem like he is a target.

At the opening of the conference, British Prime Minister David Cameron accused the Libyan leader of being in “flagrant breach” of the UN resolution.

"We must ensure fast delivery of humanitarian aid where it is needed, including to the newly liberated towns in Libya," Cameron added. “We must help the Libyan people plan for their future after the conflict is over."

Cameron also stated previously that Gaddafi should stand trial and face war crime charges – a position which many coalition states claim to share, despite an unspoken understanding that allowing Gaddafi to flee could be an option as well.

Ahead of the meeting, the UK and France issued a joint statement which appeared to advocate regime change in Libya. It included the words “Gaddafi must go immediately” and called on all his followers to leave him “before it is too late”.

Before the conference, Clinton met Libyan opposition envoy Mahmoud Jibril. Meanwhile. the Associated Press quoted an anonymous source in the US administration as saying that, “American diplomat Chris Stevens will travel to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in the coming days to establish better ties with groups seeking to oust the longtime Libyan leader.”

Rebels on the other hand have no confusion with specifying their ultimate goal, which is to get rid of Gaddafi’s regime and to establish a new order in the country.

The meeting in London comes just hours after US president Barack Obama said that NATO would be taking over full military control of all the military operations in Libya by Wednesday.

On Sunday, NATO ambassadors unanimously approved a so-called "no-fly plus" plan that made the alliance responsible for enforcing a no-fly zone and an arms embargo on Libya.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said NATO’s military actions in Libya go beyond the scope of the UN resolution and called them interference in a civil war, which is not sanctioned by the resolution.