Libyan Foreign Minister flies to Greece on 'peace mission'

Families of the victims demand that highest-ranking defector from Gaddafi regime should not be granted immunity
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The Independent Online

Libya's acting foreign minister flew into Athens last night on a mission from Muammar Gaddafi which his Greek government hosts said meant the regime was now seeking an end to the fighting.

Disilllusioned with what he sees as the betrayal by France, Britian and Italy because of the NATO-led military intervention, the Libyan leader may see Greece—with which he has long enjoyed good relations—as a possible diplomatic conduit to the West.

After Abdelati Obeidi met Prime Minister George Papandreou, Mr Obeidi's Greek counterpart, Dimitri Droutsas, said last night: "It seems that the Libyan authorities are seeking a solution." Though there were few details of what, if anything, the regime is proposing, Mr Papandreou has been in touch with Western governments over the past few days. Mr Obeidi is expected to travel on to Malta and Turkey.

Meanwhile, Scottish officials have arrived in London to question Libya's former foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, on what he knows about the Lockerbie bombing. The interview, which may take place today, comes as MPs and families of victims of the attack demand that Mr Koussa should not be granted immunity from prosecution, even if there have been attempts to encourage others in the Gaddafi regime to defect.

Despite reports that Mr Koussa is named in court documents as overseeing Libya's supply of Semtex explosive to the Provisional IRA, British officials will seek to delay any legal moves against him, arguing that the priority is to oust Colonel Gaddafi.

Fresh evidence came to light yesterday that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, one of the dictator's sons, was seeking to broker a deal by which he would take control of a transition to a constitutional democracy. A diplomat with close ties to the Libyan government was quoted in the New York Times citing "eminent people" in Tripoli as saying the proposal would involve Saif leading the country through the transition and his father leaving power. But the diplomat added the proposal appeared not to have found favour with either opposition leaders or Col Gaddafi, who has consistently depicted the unrest as the product of a conspiracy involving both Islamist extremists, including al-Qa'ida, and Western powers.

In a Commons statement today, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, will argue that the Government was right to allow Mr Koussa to enter Britain. Mr Hague said yesterday he had spoken to him briefly since his arrival but had not met him. Mr Koussa, who has not been seen in public since his arrival in Britain last Wednesday, may be asked to issue a public appeal to other allies to break with Col Gaddafi. British officials want to deploy him as they use everything at their disposal to put pressure on the Libyan dictator.

The Foreign Secretary insisted there had been "no deal" to grant Mr Koussa immunity. But the Foreign Office said there would be nothing to stop him applying for asylum in Britain. A Foreign Office spokesman also disclosed that a diplomatic team had arrived in Libya on Saturday to forge links with opposition forces.

Fighting continued in Libya yesterday, with warplanes flying over the strategic oil town of Brega and rebels battling with regime forces there. Black smoke rose further west and hundreds of cars carrying volunteer rebel fighters streamed away from the town. Meanwhile, a Turkish ship took 250 wounded from the besieged city of Misrata – which has been under repeated shelling by forces loyal to Col Gaddafi – but was forced to leave behind thousands of residents who are still trapped and pleading to be evacuated.