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article imageOp-Ed: Libya - All over in a week? Mon Dieu!

By Stephen Morgan     Jul 6, 2011 in World
"Settlement creep" seems to be crawling all over the Libyan scene this week. But that doesn't seem to be fast enough for the French.
The recently touted idea by some rebel leaders, that Gaddafi might stay in Libya as part of a deal was, in fact, first raised as a possibility by France's President Sarkosy back in May. "All options are open," he said "We are not saying that Kadafi needs to be exiled. He must leave power, and the quicker he does it, the greater his choice."
Without doubt, a certain head of steam is building up for a negotiated settlement, including, it seems, a “get-out-of-prison-and-return-to-Go” card for Gaddafi. More interestingly, it appears that France is becoming a prime mover behind the scenes.
In typical Napoleonic style, President Sarkozy demanded this week that there must be a "successful ending" to the Libyan conflict by Bastille Day, on July 14. Clearly, he is hoping that he can make a victorious announcement of an agreement at the ceremony, which will boost his sagging popularity.
Presidential elections are scheduled for next April, but for which campaigning will begin soon. Having attempted to gain popularity by presenting himself as some kind of international sans-culotte, storming the walls of Gaddafi's tyrannical prison, flag of democracy in hand, it seems his Libyan “expedition” has left the French revolutionary public cold. Only 29% of people favor him even running for President again and 55% are opposed.
Sarkozy's growing impatience to get the war over with, was certainly behind France's unilateral airdrop of military supplies to rebels in the Western Mountains. The Berbers, it seemed, were the best bet. But today, France's foreign minister did a volte face and told the rebels no more arms are coming. Suddenly it seems that, when Sarkosy urges a settlement, the rebels have quite enough.
Now Al Jazeera reports a Russian source saying “France appeared to be the country most willing to play a part in Gaddafi's potential transfer of power... Paris could choose to unfreeze some of the Gaddafi family's accounts and promise to help him avoid trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.”
So much for French intransigence! When votes at stake, it seems, Libya can go the guillotine. One minute the French are dropping military supplies, the next their setting up a comfortable pension for Gaddafi.
“Settlement creep” it seems is now the “plat du jour.” The rebels have, for the first time, now welcomed the involvement of the South African President in on-going talks and his efforts are clearly choreographed with the steps being taken by Russia and the West.
Russia is ramping up its activities and this week, NATO officials have been meeting with top Russians in Sochi to see what can be achieved. Another indication of the West's new found urgency to find a way out of the impasse.
The Russians seem to be making progress. With regard to the negotiations, the Interfax news agency reported that Medvedev said “I think all of us are inspired with the results,” “The meeting was rather productive, and I hope we made progress.”
What he is referring to, is the return visit to Tripoli of the President of the World Chess Federation, a friend of Gaddafi, who is acting as Moscow’s informal go-between. Since he is someone who has publicly claimed to have spoken with aliens in a UFO, he would obviously appear to be the best qualified for the job!
The daily Kommersant newspaper also quoted an official as saying "The colonel is sending signals that he is ready to cede power in exchange for security guarantees," and another Russian paper has added that Gaddafi is seriously considering stepping down, in return for a political future in the new regime for his sons- a bitter bill, which the rebels would have difficulty swallowing.
Behind the scenes Western leaders have been bemoaning the timing of the ICC decision to issue arrest warrants for Gadaffi and his son Saif. So yesterday, the African Union appears to have found a get-out clause and has just called on its member states not to execute the warrant.
The AU conference stated that a solution would involve “a negotiated political settlement to the crisis in Libya, which will also address, in a mutually reinforcing way, issues related to impunity and reconciliation." In other words, they will overcome the problem of prosecution, much in a way that law enforcement comes to some agreement with a mafia boss.
From the Tripoli side too, there is some startling “settlement creep.” Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim, went so far as to suggest that an agreement could be reached by Ramadan, which begins on 1 August! Not quite in time for Sarkosy, but then he isn't really in their good books. According to Reuters Kaim said "There are signals that the crisis will find a solution in the coming weeks.”
The French have shown themselves to be as impatient as ever, but whether Sarkosy will get an “accord cordial” is another thing. There are many objections, which could arise from among the rank and file fighters and some of the rebel leaders. But things are definitely moving over Libyan skies and, with so much noise on the diplomatic radar, this is not clearly not just UFOs.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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