LONDON (Reuters) - British officials told a senior Libyan aide who visited London that leader Muammar Gaddafi had to step down as part of any settlement, sources said on Friday.
The Guardian newspaper reported that Mohammed Ismail, an aide to Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, was in the British capital in recent days in what it said was one of many contacts between Libya and the West in the past two weeks.
Noman Benotman, a Libyan and senior analyst at Britain’s Quilliam think tank, cited his own contacts as saying Ismail had proposed a scenario under which Gaddafi’s sons would take over, or at least have a role in a new government, and their father would step aside with his honor intact.
Ismail was told Gaddafi had to go. The scenario proposed by Ismail is one Saif had been promoting for weeks. “It’s too late for that,” Benotman said.
A government source said Ismail had been visiting family members, but that Britain had “taken the opportunity to send some very strong messages about the Gaddafi regime.”
A Foreign Office spokeswoman would not comment on the specifics of the report, saying: “We are not going to provide a running commentary on our contact with Libyan officials.”
She added: “In any contact that we do have, we make it clear that Gaddafi has to go.”
On Wednesday, Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, one of Gaddafi’s closest advisers, defected and flew to London.
Al Jazeera television reported on Thursday that “a number of figures” close to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had left Libya for Tunis, but it was not possible to confirm this.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told ABC television network this month she was aware that people close to Gaddafi had been trying to make contact.
Reporting by William Maclean and Keith Weir; editing by Ralph Boulton