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Libya Cease-Fire Offer Regarded Coldly By West

Norwegian fighter jet returning from combat mission over Libya (photo: Lars Magne Hovtun, Norwegian AF)

The UK Independent had the story first, that the Libyan regime planned to offer multiple concessions to stop the bombing.

The Independent has obtained a copy of a letter from the country’s Prime Minister, Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, being sent to a number of foreign governments. It proposes an immediate ceasefire to be monitored by the United Nations and the African Union, unconditional talks with the opposition, amnesty for both sides in the conflict, and the drafting of a new constitution.

David Cameron and Barack Obama met yesterday to try to find an exit strategy from a conflict increasingly appearing to have no definitive military solution in sight. The US President acknowledged that the allies now seem to face a long, attritional campaign.

Behind the scenes, there are signs that Western powers may agree to a ceasefire without the precondition of Muammar Gaddafi and his immediate family going into exile.

Both the British Prime Minister and the US President declared yesterday that the Libyan dictator must leave the country. However senior officials from both sides of the Atlantic increasingly indicate that talks should start if the regime forces end their military action, and there are also genuine signs that Colonel Gaddafi is relinquishing direct control of the state apparatus.

If that’s the behind the scenes belief, however, it was not reflected in the public reaction to this cease-fire letter. The White House didn’t regard it as credible:

Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes says such offers must be backed up by action. He says the Libyan government isn’t complying with a U.N. resolution that authorized a military operation to protect the Libyan people from forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.

Rhodes spoke in France, where President Barack Obama is attending an international summit. He said the effort to drive Gadhafi from power will continue.

I don’t know how credible the letter is, but here’s an extract: “We propose that parliament will convene at an extraordinary session to appoint an executive committee which will manage the public affairs and foresee the ceasefire and propose a mechanism for a political dialogue… comprising representatives from all regions and civil society. A committee will be… mandated with drafting a constitution to the Libyan people for adoption which will define the political system in Libya. A process of reconciliation will be initiated which will include amnesty and compensation to all victims of the conflict. We are ready to talk to help mediate a ceasefire and to initiate discussions on the future form of constitutional government… Let us create a road-map to the future. What has occurred in Libya is part of a wider series of events throughout the Arab world. We understand this. We are ready and we know what is required of us.”

It is telling that Gadhafi is not even mentioned in the document at all. And certainly, this does not hew to the demands of the Libyan rebels that Gadhafi leave the country and go into exile. But I would say it offers a framework to ease the current regime from the scene and install a more democratic structure. Obviously Gadhafi hasn’t backed up prior agreements with actions.

So for now, the bombing runs continue. But with the President starting to feel pressure on Afghanistan, and with 412 House members voting to ban ground troops in Libya, he may join with coalition partners in seeking a deal for NATO withdrawal, one that may not meet the desires of the rebels.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Libya Cease-Fire Offer Regarded Coldly By West

The UK Independent had the story first, that the Libyan regime planned to offer multiple concessions to stop the bombing.

The Independent has obtained a copy of a letter from the country’s Prime Minister, Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, being sent to a number of foreign governments. It proposes an immediate ceasefire to be monitored by the United Nations and the African Union, unconditional talks with the opposition, amnesty for both sides in the conflict, and the drafting of a new constitution.

David Cameron and Barack Obama met yesterday to try to find an exit strategy from a conflict increasingly appearing to have no definitive military solution in sight. The US President acknowledged that the allies now seem to face a long, attritional campaign.

Behind the scenes, there are signs that Western powers may agree to a ceasefire without the precondition of Muammar Gaddafi and his immediate family going into exile.

Both the British Prime Minister and the US President declared yesterday that the Libyan dictator must leave the country. However senior officials from both sides of the Atlantic increasingly indicate that talks should start if the regime forces end their military action, and there are also genuine signs that Colonel Gaddafi is relinquishing direct control of the state apparatus.

If that’s the behind the scenes belief, however, it was not reflected in the public reaction to this cease-fire letter. The White House didn’t regard it as credible:

Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes says such offers must be backed up by action. He says the Libyan government isn’t complying with a U.N. resolution that authorized a military operation to protect the Libyan people from forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.

Rhodes spoke in France, where President Barack Obama is attending an international summit. He said the effort to drive Gadhafi from power will continue.

I don’t know how credible the letter is, but here’s an extract: “We propose that parliament will convene at an extraordinary session to appoint an executive committee which will manage the public affairs and foresee the ceasefire and propose a mechanism for a political dialogue… comprising representatives from all regions and civil society. A committee will be… mandated with drafting a constitution to the Libyan people for adoption which will define the political system in Libya. A process of reconciliation will be initiated which will include amnesty and compensation to all victims of the conflict. We are ready to talk to help mediate a ceasefire and to initiate discussions on the future form of constitutional government… Let us create a road-map to the future. What has occurred in Libya is part of a wider series of events throughout the Arab world. We understand this. We are ready and we know what is required of us.”

It is telling that Gadhafi is not even mentioned in the document at all. And certainly, this does not hew to the demands of the Libyan rebels that Gadhafi leave the country and go into exile. But I would say it offers a framework to ease the current regime from the scene and install a more democratic structure. Obviously Gadhafi hasn’t backed up prior agreements with actions.

So for now, the bombing runs continue. But with the President starting to feel pressure on Afghanistan, and with 412 House members voting to ban ground troops in Libya, he may join with coalition partners in seeking a deal for NATO withdrawal, one that may not meet the desires of the rebels.

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David Dayen

David Dayen