Mediator Russia hosts top Gaddafi diplomat

AFP , Wednesday 20 Jul 2011

Russia on Wednesday was to host Libyan leader Muamer Gaddafi's foreign minister in Moscow as it presses ahead with mediation efforts to end the conflict between his regime and rebel forces

Libyan rebel
Libyan rebel fighters gesture at the checkpoint some 20 kilometers west from the rebel-held Ajdabiya towards the strategic oil town of Brega (Photo: AP)

Foreign Minister Abdelati al-Obeidi will be the highest-ranking Gaddafi official to visit Moscow since the conflict with the rebels erupted and is expected to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The  visit was revealed in a statement by a Russian foreign ministry official to state news agencies a day earlier but formal details of the meetings have yet to be announced.

According to a foreign ministry source, the meeting is due to get underway at around 1200 GMT.

Russia backed the UN resolution that opened the way for Western military air strikes against Gaddafi targets but has since expressed fury with the duration of the campaign and accused the West of taking sides in a civil war.

It is also refusing to follow Western states in recognising the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) as the legitimate government in Libya, saying it only sees the opposition as a negotiating partner.

But along with the African Union, Moscow has positioned itself as a potential mediator in the crisis and President Dmitry Medvedev's envoy has held talks in both Tripoli and the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

"We will continue to search for a compromise," Medvedev said on Tuesday while on a visit to Germany. "In my opinion it is reachable."

"I think that we must search for a peaceful solution to this situation using any mediators and any possibilities, as there will be no military solution to the Libyan problem," he said alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Medvedev has strongly backed Western calls for Kadhafi to quit but Russia has also denied speculation it could be ready to offer the Libyan leader sanctuary.

Meanwhile, the pro-Gaddafi Libyan ambassador to Moscow rejected the idea that Wednesday's meetings could be aimed at finding a formula for Gaddafi to quit power.

"The political future of our country is an internal matter of Libya," Amir al-Garib told the Moskovskie Novosti newspaper in an interview. "Not one foreign state has the right to interfere in our affairs."

"I assure you that the leader of the Libyan revolution Muamer Gaddafi has no intention of leaving the state and will not discuss any proposals about this."

He said that the main aim of al-Obeidi's visit to Moscow was "finding peace" and said that the trip had been arrange at the last minute, only being finalised on Tuesday.

A Russian diplomat, who was not named, also told the paper that Gaddafi's departure from Libya would not be an issue at the talks but said that the Libyan leadership had an interest in negotiating.

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