US mediator says top Libyan echelon wants peace
Updated: 2011-04-08 11:00
WASHINGTON - A former US congressman mediating in Libya said on Thursday that the general thrust of the top Libyan echelon is they want peace and want to find a way out of the ongoing conflict.
Curt Weldon, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, told CNN that since his arrival in Libya on Wednesday, he has met with Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi's Chief of Staff Bashir Salah, Gadhafi's son Saif and Libyan Prime Minister Al Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi.
"Our only mission here is to talk face-to-face with them and say this is reality and this is a grave situation, and you need to do certain things that we suggest that we think will get our administration to respond to your actions," Weldon told CNN. "We don't have a different agenda. There's no compromise on our part."
In response to a recent personal appeal for NATO's halt of airstrikes by Gadhafi through a letter to President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday demanded the Libyan leader withdraw his forces from cities his forces control and go into exile.
The United States and its NATO allies have been pounding Libya since March 19 to enforce a no-fly zone there and protect the Libyan civilians as authorized by a UN Security Council resolution, while the Libyan opposition forces are fighting with the government military over control of cities.
Weldon said that he has not taken anything from Libya "in the way of financial benefits," adding that "I'm here only because I want to avoid war. I don't want to see American soldiers killed and I don't want to see more innocent Libyans killed."
He said that when he meets face-to-face with Gadhafi, he will " absolutely" tell him to step down. "Now it's time for someone to sit in the tent face-to-face with Colonel Gadhafi and let him know how grave this situation is, and I'm willing to do that," he explained. "And I think I'm probably the best person because I've met with him three times."
He said that he and his private delegation will wait until Friday for Gadhafi to meet them. "We're not going to stay beyond that," he added.
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