[This is the headline over a report published today on The Guardian website. Abdul Ati al-Obeidi was instrumental over the years in seeking a solution to the Lockerbie impasse and, latterly, in seeking repatriation of Abdelbaset Megrahi. From 1993 onwards (when I first became involved) he was chairman of the Libyan Government's Lockerbie committee. For a flavour of his involvement since 2007, type "Obeidi" into this blog's search facility. The article reads in part:]
Libya could hold free elections, supervised by the United Nations, within six months of the end of the conflict engulfing the country, its foreign minister has told The Guardian.
Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, who took over from Moussa Koussa after his defection from Libya last month, said the regime was prepared to consider an interim national government before elections could be held. A six-month period had been discussed, he said.
Obeidi said discussions about reform included "whether the Leader [Muammar Gaddafi] should stay and in what role, and whether he should retire". Gaddafi's future has become a pivotal issue between the regime and the opposition, which has demanded his departure.
Obeidi said: "Everything will be on the table."
The minister struck a notably conciliatory tone when speaking in his Tripoli office to The Guardian, the BBC, ITN and the Washington Post. Asked about how diplomatic efforts could bridge the gulf between the Libyan government and the opposition, he said: "It is not a case of it going our way or their way, it's a case of how we can sit together with our brothers."
The international community must accept that Libya's future should be for Libyans alone to decide. "The US, Britain and France – sometimes those countries contradict themselves. They talk about democracy but when it comes to Libya, they say he [Gaddafi] should leave. It should be up to the Libyan people. This should not be dictated from any other head of state. It is against the principle of democracy." (...)
Obeidi accused western countries of standing in the way of a peace deal along the lines of the AU's proposal. "What's stopping it? Britain, France and to a certain extent the US are stopping it by continuing bombardment, arming the other side and making them more defiant."
The AU plan includes an immediate ceasefire, the delivery of humanitarian aid, the protection of foreign nationals in Libya, and dialogue between Libyan parties on the establishment of a transition period towards political reform.
Obeidi insisted that the Libyan government was ready to negotiate a ceasefire, involving all parties including Nato and monitored by international observers. "If there is a real ceasefire and these bombs stop, we could have a real dialogue among Libyans. It cannot be done with what is going on now."
The Libya government had been accused of not being serious about a ceasefire, he said. "This is not true." But, he added, a ceasefire needed a "mutual understanding and a mediator".
If Nato stopped its air strikes, Libyans would be able to resolve their differences. "We are all Libyans, their [the rebels'] blood is Libyan." His conciliatory tone towards the opposition was in marked contrast to the belligerence shown by other government officials who routinely speak of the rebels as "armed gangs" and "terrorists".
But, he said, the UK and France were impeding progress towards a ceasefire by offering military assistance to the rebels. The Anglo-French agreement to send a team of military advisers to Benghazi would "prolong the confrontation, there is no doubt about that".
"The more the west gives arms, the more they will plant hatred. We do not want to be another Iraq or Somalia. The west could advise the other side to listen to common sense and study the peace initiatives."
A ceasefire, Obeidi said, was "the only way to give peace a chance. The situation for sure is not so bright now. But I think we can have a light at the end of the tunnel."
[In an article in The Telegraph headlined In Libya and London, we’re getting into a frightful mess, Con Coughlin says:]
It is certainly hard to divine any coherent thinking in its latest decision to send a team of British military advisers to assist the Libyan rebels. After all, Mr Cameron and all the other ministers, officials and officers who sit on the NSC [National Security Council] understand as well as anyone that one of the primary objectives of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorised the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya, was to persuade all the combatants to observe a ceasefire.
By sending British officers to Benghazi, the NSC risks undermining the very UN resolution that the Government, only a few weeks ago, fought so hard to secure. For these officers are not flying to Libya with the intention of arranging a ceasefire. They are going to turn the rebels into an effective fighting force that is capable of removing Gaddafi from power – which, of course, is what the Government really wants.
That is certainly how their arrival is being viewed by Gaddafi loyalists. Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, the Libyan foreign minister, yesterday said, with some justification, that Britain’s tangible display of support for the rebels would harm the prospects for peace in Libya. But, then, the NSC’s decision to undertake a marked escalation in Britain’s involvement in the Libyan conflict reflects the central paradox that lies at the heart of the Government’s approach. The UN resolution authorises military action to be undertaken to protect innocent civilians, with a view to establishing a lasting ceasefire. But from the outset, Mr Cameron, together with Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama, has insisted that the ultimate objective is to bring about the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime. Consequently, the NSC is constantly having to weigh up the conflicting requirements of supporting the UN’s humanitarian mission with Downing Street’s more ambitious agenda.