Gathafi aide in secret talks with Britain

Is there a dignified way out?

LONDON - A senior aide from Libyan leader Moamer Gathafi's regime has been in talks with the British government, the Guardian newspaper reported on its website Thursday.
Britain's Foreign Office (FCO) refused to comment on the report which asserted that British officials met with Mohammed Ismail, a senior aide to Gathafi's son Saif al-Islam, for confidential discussions.
Citing a British government source, the newspaper said the meeting was one of a number conducted between the two nations in the last two weeks, and is believed to have addressed the possibility of an exit strategy for Gathafi.
Despite a low profile in Libya and internationally, Ismail is a key aide to Saif al-Islam and represented the nation in arms purchase negotiations, cables leaked on the WikiLeaks website revealed.
The FCO earlier told the paper that it would not provide a "running commentary" on contact between the two countries.
The report came less than a day after Gathafi's foreign minister, Mussa Kussa, unexpectedly arrived in London and announced he was quitting his post.
Britain said Thursday it had not offered Kussa immunity following his arrival and urged other members of Gathafi's "crumbling" regime to quit.
On Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced the expulsion of five diplomats at the Libyan embassy in London because of the threat they posed to opposition dissidents.
Meanwhile, Germany's foreign minister said Friday the situation in Libya could not be solved through "military means" and called for a ceasefire, amid a NATO-led air campaign against Gathafi's forces.
Guido Westerwelle made the comments after meeting his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Beijing on an official trip that will be followed by a visit to disaster-struck Japan.
"There can only be a political resolution and we must get the political process underway. That should begin with a ceasefire that Gathafi must heed to allow the peace process to begin," Westerwelle told reporters.
US, British, French, Canadian, Danish and Belgian jets have attacked Libyan military targets since March 19 under UN Security Council resolution 1973, which authorised "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.
The coalition campaign aims to oust Gathafi, who is currently fighting an insurgency against his 41-year rule.
China and Germany abstained from the vote on the resolution, which established a no-fly zone over the North African state, and are not participating in the military action against the Libyan strongman's regime.
Yang noted this, saying it showed that "both countries have reservations on different levels."
"We emphasise that Resolution 1973 was conceived as a means of ending the violence and protecting civilians. We are therefore worried by continued reports of deaths and injuries among civilians and continuing clashes," Yang said.
"We hope that the relevant countries will adhere to the resolution and respect Libya's independence and sovereignty. The matter must be dealt with appropriately by diplomatic and political means."
In London, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected Thursday the idea of supplying arms to Libya's rebel fighters, saying that doing so could be "conducive to terrorism."
Speaking at a joint press conference in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Erdogan said he had a "negative" view on arming opposition forces battling Gathafi.
"Doing that would create a different situation in Libya and we do not find it appropriate to do that," Erdogan said.
"In our view this could also create an environment which would be conducive to terrorism and that in itself would be dangerous," he added.
"The fact that NATO is now involved was a step that was taken to overcome or solve the problems there and that's why we look favourably on the involvement of NATO.
"And it should be NATO which should take the measures to protect the civilians from cruelty."
World powers are debating whether to arm the rebels, with the United States, Britain and France all raising the possibility.
Turkey, the only Muslim-majority member of NATO, has only reluctantly backed the military alliance's takeover of the enforcement of a UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya and has criticised western-led air strikes.
The Turkish parliament last week approved the dispatch of a naval force to a NATO patrol mission in Libyan waters.