Is France turning its back on Libya rebels?
ALGIERS - Tripoli is negotiating a way out of the Libyan crisis with France not with its rebel foes, the son of embattled Libyan leader Moamer Gathafi said in an interview published Monday.
"We are in fact holding real negotiations with France and not with the rebels," Seif Al-Islam said during the interview with the Algerian daily El Khabar conducted in the Libyan capital.
He said Tripoli had received a "clear message" from Paris through a special envoy who met with the French president.
Seif Al-Islam said French President Nicolas Sarkozy bluntly told the Libyan emissary: "We created the (rebel) National Transitional Council and without France's backing, money and weapons, it would not exist."
And he added that Sarkozy made it clear that "he, not the rebels, was Tripoli's interlocutor."
"The French officially informed us that they wanted to set up a transitional government in Libya. Sarkozy told a Libyan envoy: I have a list and those on it are the men of France," Gathafi's son said.
However, Paris denied on Monday reports it has begun direct negotiations with Tripoli.
France said it has made indirect contact with Libyan strongman Moamer Gathafi's regime, the foreign ministry said.
Paris is a leading member of the NATO-led international coalition bombing Gathafi's forces and a cheerleader for the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) battling to overthrow his rule.
Sunday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in Addis Ababa that Paris would work with the African Union to find "political solutions" to the Libya crisis, but insisted that the ouster of Libyan leader Moamer Gathafi was a "key point".
And earlier this month, France said it supplied light arms including rifles and rocket launchers to the rebels for "self-defence" in line with a UN resolution.
However it later said the rebels, increasingly confident on the ground, no longer need the weapons drops.