Libya’s Foreign Minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi on Wednesday offered a “properly verifiable” ceasefire supervised by foreign observers to pave the way for talks which could cover “any issue” including, he implied, the future of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi.
He proposed a six-month transition period to be followed by elections under U.N. supervision as proposed by the African Union.
British Government dismissed the offer saying. “We need actions, not words from Qadhafi’s regime.”
Mr. Obeidi’s remarks in a BBC interview came as France and Italy, taking a cue from Britain, announced that they too would send teams of military officers to Libya to help rebels fighting government forces - a move that Mr. Obeidi said would “encourage” anti-Qadhafi groups to “become more defiant” and hinder any peace initiative.
Critics warned that by sending military personnel to Libya, the Western alliance could be in breach of the U.N. mandate which specifically prohibited “boots on the ground”.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague claimed the military teams would not be involved in any combat operations and provide only logistics and intelligence training to rebel forces.
Mr. Obeidi called foreign military presence a “step backwards” and said ultimately it would have to be a “Libyan solution”.
“Any military presence by Britain or any other country will not help peace and dialogue. Any solution will be and should be Libyan-Libyan...We think any military presence is a step backwards and we are sure that if this bombing is stopped and there is a real ceasefire we could have a dialogue among all Libyans about what they want - democracy, political reform, constitution, election. This could not be done with what is going on now,” he said.
Describing the rebels as “our brothers”, Mr. Obeidi said: “We are all Libyans. They are our brothers. The blood is Libyan and whoever is killed is dear to all of us.”
British Foreign Office Government said there had been “several offers of ceasefires before from this regime -- at the same time as his forces continue flagrantly to shell cities like Misrata and attack the Libyan people”.
“Qadhafi needs to respect the U.N. Security Council resolutions and he must pull his forces back from the cities he is besieging ... Then we can move forward to a real political transition in Libya,” a spokesman said even as Mr. Obeidi insisted that his government was “serious about a properly verifiable ceasefire supervised by foreign observers”.