US Wary of Gaddafi Peace Feelers
David Gollust | Istanbul, Turkey July 14, 2011
Senior U.S. officials say they’re skeptical of hints from Libyan emissaries to Europe that besieged Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi may be considering giving up power. The officials traveled with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to a meeting of the international “contact group” on Libya in Turkey.
A senior State Department official says while there are “a lot of straws in the wind” about the Libyan leader perhaps giving up power, the United States is not persuaded that any of the signals are definitive, and it is holding to its insistence that he cede power.
The official spoke to reporters traveling to Turkey with Clinton amid recent reports attributed to various Libyan emissaries to Europe that Mr. Gaddafi may be ready to give up all but ceremonial posts in Libya, or in another scenario, transfer power to one of his sons in a transitional arrangement.
The U.S. official said the United States and other countries in the Libya “contact group” opening talks in Istanbul Friday have not change demands that the Libyan leader cease violence, withdraw forces from around rebel held areas, and make clear that he is prepared to step down from all government posts he holds so there can be a political transition.
Earlier this week, Clinton said Gaddafi associates were sending mixed messages about whether he might be prepared to step down, but that in any case, she said his days in power are “numbered.”
After the contact group meeting, the fourth since its founding in April, Clinton will hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other top Turkish officials on a range of issues including political unrest in Turkey’s neighbor Syria.
Clinton arrived in Turkey amid a resurgence of clashes between Turkish forces and the militant Kurdish group the PKK, which is listed by the United States as a terrorist organization.
Thirteen Turkish troops were killed in a clash with the PKK Thursday in a southeastern province near Iraq.
Clinton said she was deeply saddened by the news and would personally convey to Turkish leaders the U.S. commitment to cooperate against the group. State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner condemned the attack in Washington.
“ We express our condolences to the families of the victims and we stand in solidarity with Turkey. The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s killings of Turkish soldiers, and we strongly support Turkey in its fight against terror and will continue to work with the Government of Turkey to combat terrorism in all its forms,” Toner said.
Clinton’s visit to Turkey is the first stop on a 12-day around the world trip that will also take her to Greece, India, Indonesia and China.
State Department officials announced Thursday that in addition to a stop in Hong Kong, Clinton will travel to the nearby Chinese city of Shenzhen for a wide-ranging set of political talks with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo.
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