France Pursues Libya Diplomacy, Denies Direct Negotiations
VOA News July 11, 2011
France says it has had indirect contact with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi but has "no direct negotiations" with his government.
French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Monday that Paris has sent messages to the Gadhafi government "in liaison with" Libya's rebel Transitional National Council.
Valero said the messages tell Gadhafi he must step down as part of any political solution to his five-month conflict with rebels fighting to end his 42-year rule.
Earlier, Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam told an Algerian newspaper El Khabar that French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently met an envoy of Gadhafi to discuss the Libyan conflict.
France has given direct aid to the rebels and is taking part in NATO airstrikes against Libyan government forces.
French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said Sunday the rebels eventually must talk to the Libyan government to resolve the conflict politically.
Longuet said France believes Gadhafi should not be in the same room as the negotiators but could remain "in his palace with a different title" while the talks were underway.
Libya's rebels have long rejected any negotiations with the Gadhafi government while he remains in charge.
In another development, Israeli media say several Gadhafi envoys recently visited Israel and met with officials to try to improve the Libyan leader's image.
The reports say the Israeli embassy in Paris granted visas to the Libyan diplomats, enabling them to meet with Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni and other politicians.
Israeli media say the Gadhafi envoys hoped to prevent Israel from supporting the Libyan rebels.
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