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US officials hold talks with Gaddafi government

July 19, 2011 12:26 IST
United States officials have held rare face-to-face talks with representatives of Muammar Gaddafi's government and asked the Libyan leader to step down.

Officials of the US and the Gaddafi regime met and held meetings for three hours in the neutral grounds in Tunisia recently. The countries though made the information public but differed on the nature, content and outcome of the meeting.

The meeting comes within days of the US recognising the opposition coalition based in Benghazi, which paves the way for it receiving aid from the US and access to the funds seized by the United States. While the US officials insisted that it was a one-off meeting with the Gaddafi regime to tell them in clear words that it is time for the Libyan leader to leave power, a spokesman of the Libyan government Moussa Ibrahim described this as the first step.

"We support any dialogue, any peace initiative, as long as they don't decide Libya's future from outside," Ibrahim, was quoted as saying by news reports in Tripoli. "We will discuss everything, but do not condition your peace talks. Let the Libyans decide their future," he said.

In Washington, a State Department official said the US delegation was led by Jeffrey Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for the Near East. "We wanted to deliver a crystal-clear message face to face," a State Department official said, insisting that this was a one-off meeting. The purpose of the meeting was "for us to convey directly that Gaddafi must go," the CNN quoted a US official as saying.

Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya for four decades, has been hanging on to power despite rebel advances and four months of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation-led bombings.

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