BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The hardline stance taken by major powers against Muammar Gaddafi may have backed the Libyan leader into a corner and prevented a quiet exit, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Friday. Speaking after a special meeting of EU leaders, Berlusconi, one of Gaddafi’s closest friends in Europe until the current upheaval, said the chances of persuading him to give up power voluntarily now appeared to have disappeared.
“Once someone put forward the idea of bringing Gaddafi before the International Criminal Court, I think the idea of staying in power became entrenched with him and I don’t think anyone can make him change his mind,” he told reporters.
Asked whether the possibility remained that Gaddafi might be persuaded to go into exile, Berlusconi, who last spoke to the Libyan leader two weeks ago, said:
“I don’t think, following this position and let’s say this loss of legitimacy with all his international interlocutors, I don’t think this possibility remains any more.”
EU leaders demanded Friday that Gaddafi stop using force against Libyan rebels and called for him to step down, declaring that he could no longer be considered a proper interlocutor.
Officials from the international war crimes tribunal are investigating whether to lay charges against Gaddafi for his crackdown against opponents, with reports of hundreds killed in nearly a month of unrest.
Writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Philippa Fletcher