LONDON (Reuters) - International powers should offer Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi an exit strategy when they meet in London on Tuesday, political commentators said.
Humanitarian aid for Libyans and plans to move to a post-Gaddafi future will be discussed when Britain hosts the conference to be attended by 35 nations.
Britain, which has taken a lead role in military operations against Gaddafi’s forces, said the meeting would reinforce the commitment to implement the U.N. Security Council resolution to protect civilians.
However, with NATO taking command of military operations and rebels on the advance, some commentators said Gaddafi should be given a last chance to end his four-decade rule.
Saad Djebbar, a London-based expert who acted as an intermediary in talks with Libya over the 1988 Lockerbie aircraft bombing, said the meeting should agree a strategy for ousting Gaddafi.
This might involve the West offering him an opportunity to step down with immunity from prosecution on condition he cease all political activity, live in an agreed location — probably abroad, and that the deal be made very soon.
“The message would be that the deal is on the table only for a short time. After that limited period, everything would change,” he said.
UK-based Libyan editor and opposition activist Ashour Shamis echoed the view that an exit strategy should be offered.
“They might come up with an offer. It might be made in public, and yes that is humiliating for Gaddafi, but is he in a position to object?
The conference will look to the longer term future, mindful of the failure of the international community to plan for the aftermath of the Iraq War in 2003.
Agreement about NATO taking full control of military operations was delayed by Turkish concerns about civilian casualties and world powers will be keen to prevent political consensus fraying among international partners.
“The morning after will be much messier than the Western coalition thinks,” Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics told BBC TV.
“We don’t know the strength of the rebels, we don’t know the composition of the rebels, we don’t know if the rebels will be able to run Libya, we don’t know how much chaos there will be,” he said.
“What will the UK and France do when Gaddafi is basically either killed or captured?”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said last week he was concerned about the plight of up to 80,000 Libyans who have been forced from their homes.
Hague also said he had stepped up contacts with the opposition Interim National Council based in the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi.
He has invited its leader Mahmoud Jebril to London but it was not clear if he would be at the conference.
Qatar, the first Arab country to join the U.N.-backed no-fly zone, said on Monday it recognized the National Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people.
Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Louise Ireland