Gaddafi must relinquish power says William Hague

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The Independent Online

Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi must relinquish power but may not have to leave Libya, Foreign Secretary William Hague has indicated.

Mr Hague said the fate of the dictator was "a question for the Libyans", claiming the country's future was not for the UK or France to determine.

The Foreign Secretary said he thought it would be best if Gaddafi did leave, adding that the British Government supported the International Criminal Court which has issued an arrest warrant for the despot.

He was speaking at a press conference in London last night ahead of bilateral talks with French foreign minister Alain Juppe about how to resolve the situation in Libya.

Mr Hague said the UK and France were "absolutely united" in their approach to dealing with the dictator amid claims the French were growing impatient with the lack of military success.

Mr Hague refused to be drawn on the implications for the International Criminal Court of allowing the Libyan leader to remain in the country, dismissing the prospect as a "hypothetical route".

"What happens to Gaddafi is ultimately a question for the Libyans," Mr Hague said.

"It is, as I said in my remarks earlier, for the Libyan people to determine their own future.

"What is absolutely clear, as Alain (Juppe) has said, is that whatever happens, Gaddafi must leave power. He must never again be able to threaten the lives of Libyan civilians nor to destabilise Libya once he has left power.

"Obviously him leaving Libya itself would be the best way of showing the Libyan people that they no longer have to live in fear of Gaddafi.

"But as I have said all along, this is ultimately a question for Libyans to determine."

Mr Hague received the backing of Mr Juppe, who said the UK and France were in "perfect co-operation" in Libya where they were working along "exactly the same lines".

He added: "We think that we must continue to exert strong pressure on the Libyan regime with the same methods.

"If we did not intervene four months ago it would have been a massacre in Benghazi and I think we may be proud to have taken this courageous decision."

He added: "We are absolutely clear that at the end of the day, Gaddafi is going to have to abandon power, all military and civil responsibility, and then it will be for the Libyan people themselves to decide what (his) fate will be either inside Libya or outside Libya."

Earlier, the Ministry of Defence said British jets had successfully bombed a key intelligence building used by Gaddafi's forces.

The attack on the Central Organisation for Electronic Research building in Tripoli came in the early hours of Sunday morning and involved RAF Tornado and Typhoon aircraft.

COER is described by the Libyan authorities as an engineering academy, but the MoD insisted that it was a "wholly legitimate" target as it had long been used as a cover for the "nefarious activities" of the Gaddafi regime.

Since the launch on March 19 of international military action to protect Libyan civilians under United Nations Security Council resolution 1973, more than 710 regime targets have been destroyed by the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Army Air Corps, said the MoD.

Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said allowing Gaddafi to stay in Libya was "less than perfect, but it might be the best available (option) under the circumstances".

He said it was "not inconceivable" that there would be a siege in Tripoli but insisted it was also possible there could be an uprising in the city if insurgents got close enough.

"The important thing to avoid is a bloodbath in Tripoli," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

He added: "This isn't about the British position or the Nato position - it's about what the Libyans themselves want and can live with.

"It is their country and it is their future. If they can live with a situation where Gaddafi remains in the country but is deprived of power then it is none of our business to say that is unacceptable."

Sir Malcolm said military intervention was "absolutely going a lot slower" than had been hoped.

"It is all going in the right direction but painfully slowly.

"At the end of the day, this guy is going to go. The debate is now about how he goes, not whether."