U.S. and European diplomats offered a plan that would allow Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to remain in Libya – as long as he steps down from power, and the recently recognized opposition based in eastern Libya agrees.
It's not clear if the rebels, who are still locked in a stalemate with Qaddafi, would accept the terms -- or if the embattled leader himself, who has so far refused to step down even after month of NATO air attacks on his ground forces and command-and-control centers, would agree. Rebel leader Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who had initially indicated openness to such an arrangement, told reporters in Benghazi, Libya: “This offer is no longer valid.”
U.S. government officials met with representatives from Libya’s embattled regime in Tunisia earlier this month, where the option was delivered, The New York Times reported. The news provides more detail to a meeting that the State Department said at the time was “not a negotiation.” A spokeswoman had said that the message from the U.S. delegation-- including Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz and Jeff Feltman, assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs—was "simple and unambiguous, and the same message we deliver in public: Qaddafi must leave power so that a new political process can begin.”
The offer comes after the U.S. formally recognized Libya’s Transitional National Council, headquartered in the eastern city of Benghazi, as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people—a move that opens the door to funneling to the insurgents some of the approximately $34 billion in Qaddafi-related funds that the U.S. froze in February. France has already recognized the TNC, and Britain announced this week it would also extend formal diplomatic recognition and expel all diplomats loyal to Qaddafi.