Is Moammar Gadhafi looking to step down?

There are reports that the Libyan dictator may be open to a transfer of power

By Peter Finocchiaro
Published March 8, 2011 5:04PM (EST)

Is Moammar Gadhafi looking for a way out? The prospect of the Libyan strongman stepping down is generating considerable buzz today, but good answers are hard to come by.

Leaders of the Libyan opposition movement claimed Monday that Gadhafi sent a representative to Benghazi to negotiate the terms for his abdication. Libyan state television denied those reports. However, a spokesman for the National Council, the opposition's Benghazi-based interim government, continues to insist that Gadhafi approached the ruling body for negotiations. According to Al Jazeera:

The Libyan leader is said to be willing to step down in return for dropping war crimes charges against him and guaranteeing a safe exit for him and his family. He also reportedly wants guarantees from the UN that he will be allowed to keep his money.

Reuters similarly reports that Gadhafi could be willing to hand over power to head of parliament should certain financial and legal guarantees be proffered. 

Whether rumors of Gadhafi's imminent departure are accurate, the Libyan government does seem open to compromise in some form. Former Prime Minster Jadallah Azous Al-Talhi appeared on state television Monday night -- in what, by all indications, was a government-sanctioned address -- enjoining opposition leaders to end the rebellion in favor of dialogue.

Al-Talhi said

Give a chance to national dialogue to resolve this crisis, to help stop the bloodshed, and not give a chance to foreigners to come and capture our country again.

This statement, in and of itself, represents a break from the government's characteristically brutal stance on the country's liberation movement. Since unrest first roiled to the surface four weeks ago -- then evolved into a full-out rebellion -- the Gadhafi regime has waged bloody battles against the opposition, employing everything from snipers to armed tanks to helicopter gunships. Thousands have already been killed, by some estimates.

Opposition leaders supposedly rejected Gadhafi's proposals for a transfer of power. One Al Jazeera source, for example, insisted that such a compromise would amount to an unnaceptable "honourable" departure for the dictator. However, the head of the National Council told Al Jazeera

Rebels will not pursue Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi over crimes they say he has committed if he steps down from his post in the next 72 hours.

In the midst of so many conflicting reports, only time will tell whether Gadhafi will step down or maintain his grip on power until the bloody end.

Peter Finocchiaro

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