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Libya military option needs more time, says British diplomat

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-07-11

Reacting to growing French impatience at the pace of the conflict in Libya, Britain’s former ambassador to Tripoli insists that the military operation "is working" and should be allowed to follow its course.

Britain’s former ambassador to Libya has expressed surprise that France had called on the Libyan Transitional National Council to negotiate with Muammer Gaddafi’s regime.

Sir Richard Dalton, who was the UK envoy to Tripoli from 1999 to 2002, told FRANCE 24 he was buffled that France, which was one of the keenest to start military action against Gaddafi, appeared to be “blowing hot then cold” and losing patience with the progress of the conflict.

French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet told BFM TV on Sunday that the allies had “stopped the hand that was striking” against the rebels, and that “now was the time to sit down at the negotiating table”.

Asked if there could be negotiations even if Gaddafi remained in the country, he said: “He would simply be in another room in his palace and holding a different title.”

Dalton, an associate fellow at the London-based think tank Chatham House, was unequivocal. “The military option is working,” he told France 24. “But it is going to take more time. It would be very unfortunate if the French are now developing a separate line.

“Some form of negotiations may be necessary – but I don’t yet see enough military pressure on Gaddafi to see a successful outcome to any such negotiations.”

Dalton added that Longuet’s suggestion that Gaddafi could eventually stay in Libya during any negotiations was totally unrealistic.

“This whole revolution is about the presence of Muammer Gaddafi in Libya. To suggest that he could remain during negotiations is a serious disservice to the TNC,” he said.

Paris has denied claims made on Monday by Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, in an interview with Algerian newspaper El Khabar, that Paris had been in negotiations with the Gaddafi regime.

A foreign ministry spokesman said that France had been “sending messages” to the Tripoli-based government through its allies but did not give further details.

The French National Assembly is due to vote Tuesday on continuing its military commitment in Libya. 

Date created : 2011-07-11

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