Tuesday, July 19, 2011

US delivers 'stern message' to Gaddafi

A HIGH-RANKING United States delegation held direct talks with representatives of Muammar Gaddafi's government at the weekend, delivering a ''stern message'' to the Libyan leader to step down.

US ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman and National Security Council staff member Derek Chollet met with Libyan officials. The talks, held on Saturday in an undisclosed Middle Eastern country, were thought to be the highest-level exchange between the two countries since NATO began its bombing campaign against Libyan government targets in March.

But two US officials familiar with the session insisted that no negotiations took place. ''It was the delivery of a message,'' said an Obama administration official. ''The message was simple and unambiguous and the same message we deliver in public: Gaddafi must leave power so that a new political process can begin that reflects the will and aspirations of the Libyan people.''

Libyan rebels claim they have all but taken the key oil town of Brega after a weekend of vicious street-by-street combat.

Most regime forces had retreated to the next town, Ras Lanuf, along the coast, a rebels spokesman said.

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