Fresh off his stint in the eastern city of Benghazi, Chris Stevens, the U.S. envoy to Libya’s opposition, said that the recently recognized Transitional National Council is still weighing whether to allow Muammar el-Qaddafi to stay in the country if he steps down from power.
“That’s a highly controversial issue within the TNC right now,” Stevens told reporters at the State Department. “I’m not sure they’ve reached a final decision.”
During a meeting in Tunisia last month, U.S. and European diplomats offered representatives of Qaddafi’s government a plan that would allow the embattled leader to remain in the war-torn country – as long as he relinquishes power and the rebels' TNC agrees.
Rebel leader Mustafa Abdel-Jalil had initially indicated being open to such an arrangement, but later told reporters in Benghazi, Libya: “This offer is no longer valid.” Qaddafi as so far refused to step down even after months of NATO air attacks on his ground forces and command-and-control centers.
The TNC has been "flip-flopping" over the issue, Stevens said. One argument is that Qaddafi “should go, because if he’s allowed to stay in Libya, he’ll just cause more problems,” he said.
“The other argument is that he should be allowed to stay in Libya… and then [Libyans] can prosecute him." There are also questions about whether the new government would turn Qaddafi over to the International Criminal Court, where he is wanted for allegedly orchestrating widespread, systematic attacks on civilians.
The U.S. policiy position, Steven said, “is that it’s a decision for the Libyan people and their future government where Qaddafi resides.”