England's White Dragon

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Saturday, 16 April 2011

U turn by U.S. and British now looking for a refuge for Gaddafi

The Obama administration with the backing of the British government
has begun seeking a country, most likely in Africa, that might be willing to
provide shelter to Col. Muammar el-Gaddafi if he were forced out of Libya, even
as a new wave of intelligence reports suggest that no rebel leader has emerged
as a credible successor to the Libyan dictator be most are just as corrupted as
Gadhafi is.

The intense search for a country to accept Colonel Gaddafi
has been conducted quietly by the United States and its allies, even though the
Libyan leader has shown defiance in recent days, parading through Tripoli’s
streets and declaring that he has no intention of yielding to demands that he
leave his country.

The effort is complicated by the likelihood that he would be
indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for the bombing of
Pan Am 103 in 1988, and atrocities inside Libya.

One possibility, according to three administration
officials, is to find a country that is not a signatory to the treaty that
requires countries to turn over anyone under indictment for trial by the court,
perhaps giving Colonel Gaddafi an incentive to abandon his stronghold in

The move by the United States to find a haven for Colonel Gaddafi
may help explain how the White House is attempting to enforce President Obama’s
declaration that the Libyan leader must leave the country but without violating
Mr. Obama’s refusal to put troops on the ground.

The United Nations Security Council has authorized military
strikes to protect the Libyan population, but not to oust the country’s
leadership. But Mr. Obama and the leaders of Britain and France, among others,
have declared that to be their goals, apart from the military campaign.

“We learned some lessons from Iraq, and one of the biggest
is that Libyans have to be responsible for regime change, not us,” one senior
administration official said on Saturday. “What we’re simply trying to do is
find some peaceful way to organize an exit, if the opportunity arises.”

About half of the countries in Africa have not signed or
ratified the Rome Statute, which requires nations to abide by commands from the
international court. (The United States has also not ratified the statute,
because of concerns about the potential indictment of its soldiers or
intelligence agents.) Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, suggested late
last month that several African countries could offer Colonel Gaddafi a haven,
but he did not identify them.

As the drama over Colonel Gaddafi’s future has intensified,
new details are emerging of the month-long NATO bombing campaign, which, in the
minds of many world leaders, has expanded into a campaign to press the Libyan
military and Colonel Gaddafi’s aides to turn against him.

That effort has gone more slowly than some expected; after
the defection of the former intelligence chief and foreign minister, Moussa
Koussa, no other senior officials have broken with the man who has ruled Libya
for 42 years.

Six countries — Britain, Norway, Denmark, France, Canada and
Belgium — have provided more than 60 aircraft that are conducting airstrikes
against Libyan targets that attack civilians. But NATO commanders say they are
still struggling to come up with at least eight more warplanes to ensure the
alliance can sustain a longer-term operation and relieve strain on pilots now
flying repeated combat missions.

The United States, which carried out the largest share of
strike missions before handing off control of the operation to NATO on April 4,
has promised additional fighter-bombers and ground-attack planes if NATO
requests them. While some European officials have privately complained that the
United States should resume a leading role in the attack missions, American
officials say they have not received any formal requests for additional

Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to
Mr. Obama, asserted that in a month’s time the coalition has accomplished three
major objectives: saving the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi from becoming
the site of a civilian atrocity, setting up an international command to protect
civilians and clear the skies of Libyan aircraft, and providing modest amounts
of humanitarian assistance.

Still, the NATO countries flying ground-attack missions
operate under different degrees of caution when striking targets that could
hurt civilians or damage mosques, schools or hospitals, complicating the campaign,
a senior American military official said. Some pilots have refused to drop
their bombs for this reason, the official said, but allied air-war planners
cannot predict which pilots will be matched against particular targets

“Without a doubt, it is frustrating working through all this
to get maximum effect for our efforts and dealing with all these variants,”
said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid upsetting
coalition partners

American officials concede that the rebel leaders have not
settled on who might succeed Colonel Gaddafi if he is ousted, and some fear
that tribal warfare could break out if there is no consensus figure who could
bind the country together.

White House officials say that while they would have liked
to see Colonel Gaddafi depart already, they believe that pressure is building.

“There are aspects of the passage of time those works
against Gaddafi, if we can cut him off from weapons, material and cash,” Mr.
Rhodes said. He added that “it affects the calculations of the people around
him. But it will take time for the opposition group to gel.”

Earlier this month, an American envoy, Chris Stevens, was
sent to Benghazi to learn more about the Transitional National Council. The
group has pledged to work toward new presidential and parliamentary elections
after Colonel Gaddafi’s ouster, uphold human rights, draft a national
constitution and encourage the formation of political parties. Mr. Stevens is
expected to stay as long as a month, security permitting, State Department
officials said.

The United Nations special envoy to Libya, Abdelilah
al-Khatib, a former Jordanian foreign minister, is also meeting with opposition
figures, as well as with members of Colonel Gaddafi’s government to explore
possible diplomatic settlement.

Perhaps the most prominent member of the government in
waiting is Mahmoud Jibril, a planning expert who defected from Colonel Gaddafi’s
government. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has met twice with Mr.
Jibril, who American diplomats say is the group’s most polished and savvy
public figure. He also spoke to several NATO, Arab and African ministers who
gathered in Doha, Qatar, last Wednesday to discuss the Libya crisis.

Another leading council member is Ali Tarhouni, who was
appointed finance minister of the rebels’ shadow government. Mr. Tarhouni, who
teaches economics at the University of Washington, returned to Libya in
February after more than 35 years in exile to advise the opposition on economic

“With respect to the opposition, we are learning more all
the time,” Mrs. Clinton said in Berlin on Friday. “We are pooling our
information. There are a number of countries that have significant ties to
members of the oppositions, who have a presence in Benghazi that enables them
to collect information. Our envoy is still in Benghazi and meeting with a broad
cross-section of people.”

Mrs. Clinton told NATO ministers that the coalition had acknowledged
the transitional council was “a legitimate and important interlocutor for the
Libyan people.” She added: “We all need to deepen our engagement with and
increase our support for the opposition.”

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