Could Gaddafi stay in Libya?
Colonel Gaddafi can stay in Libya if he gives up power, the head of the opposition movement in a move that could ease the way towards a political solution of the conflict that has now been raging for more than four months.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chair of the Transitional National Council, : "If he desires to stay in Libya, we will determine the place and it will be under international supervision. And there will be international supervision of all his movements."
The Libyan leader has so far insisted that whatever happens he will not leave the country. One of the objections to allowing him to stay is the fear that he could continue to manipulate Libyan politics after his official departure from power, but strict supervision of his movements and contacts could overcome that. Jalil suggested, for example, that Gaddafi could spend his retirement under guard in a military barracks.
Some Libyans certainly welcome that idea. One described it as "the perfect move to save Libyan blood", though another said Gaddafi should either leave the country or go to jail.
Providing dictators with a face-saving exit may be a pragmatic solution but it does raise some .
The Tunisian president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, was allowed to flee the country. He took refuge in Saudi Arabia but is now wanted for trial in Tunisia. In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak was allowed to "retire" to the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh but also faces prosecution along with other members of his family. Meanwhile, Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been insisting on immunity from prosecution as one of several pre-conditions for stepping down.
However, the situation in Libya is complicated by the for Gaddafi and his son issued last month by the International Criminal Court. Letting him stay in Libya under "international supervision" is probably impractical, since it would amount to protecting him from arrest – in defiance of the ICC.
The transitional council's offer was apparently made privately a month ago, before the ICC issued its warrants, and there is some speculation as to why Jalil has raised it in public now.
His remarks from the Turkish foreign minister which resulted in Turkey throwing its weight more firmly behind the Libyan opposition – recognising the transitional council as the country's legitimate representative and promising a further $200m in aid.
Talk of internal exile for Gaddafi may also be connected with attempts by the African Union to between the regime and the opposition. An apparent concession by the regime is that discussions could be held without the colonel's direct involvement.
Another possibility suggested by , an analyst and contributor to Comment is free, is that the opposition could be giving him "" before launching an offensive on his Tripoli stronghold.
Some media reports have suggested that opposition forces are preparing to but are concerned about the risk of bloodshed if they do so.
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