Apr 4, 2011 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Abdulati al-Obeidi, who has emerged as the Libyan regime’s acting foreign minister after the defection to London last week of Moussa Koussa, was meeting George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, in Athens last night.
He is the first senior envoy sent by Col Gaddafi since the international coalition started to enforce a no–fly zone over Libya. Greek officials said Mr Obeidi, who recently was said to be close to defection, was carrying a message from Col Gaddafi.
The trip raised the prospect that the Libyan leader would be willing to seek a ceasefire and to acknowledge international demands for his removal.
Mr Papandreou’s office said he was meeting Mr Obeidi “at the request of the Libyan prime minister”, Al–Baghdadi Ali Al–Mahmudi.
Mr Obeidi told Mr Papandreou that Libya wanted to end the fighting, according to Dimitris Droutsas, the foreign minister. “It seems that the Libyan authorities are seeking a solution,” said Mr Droutsas. “There needs to be a serious effort for peace in the region.”
Mr Droutsas said Mr Obeidi planned to travel to Malta and Turkey as the Libyan regime sought a way out of the crisis.
Reports suggested that Mr Obeidi had travelled to Tunisia with Mr Koussa last week, but stopped short of fleeing.
There is said to be a growing realisation within the Gaddafiregime that international isolation will inflict a grim toll on Tripoli. Mr Obeidi, a heavyweight in Col Gaddafi’s shrinking group of advisers, appears to support a package of reforms and transition to a new type of leadership, even a new leader.
Last night it was reported that Saif al–Islam Gaddafi, the reformist son of the leader, is proposing a compromise to end the impasse.
He would lead a transition, that would result in his father relinquishing power to a constitutional democracy.
Mr Obeidi said last week that he was working for a “mutual solution” between a regime clinging to power and the international position that Col Gaddafi’s survival is incompatible with Libya’s rehabilitation.
“We are trying to talk to the British, the French and the Americans to stop the killing of people,” he said. “We should concentrate on democracy and a constitution, which we are doing.”
British officials stressed that it was early days, and that the Libyan leader had already declared two ceasefires only to break them. A source added: “We will judge them on his actions, not their words. We are not getting too excited about someone flying to Greece.”
A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment.
Diplomats remained sceptical last night that Mr Obeidi would be able to deliver a shift in Col Gaddafi’s grip on power. As far as his domestic audience is concerned, Col Gaddafi is determined to eliminate any challenge to his regime.
State television remains dominated by his rallying cry to clear out the “rats” in every street, alley and house.
“It may amount to something and it may amount to nothing,” said one diplomat.
“The fact of the matter is that Libya has not offered a coherent position, but we look forward to something that could offer a route to discussions.”