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Russia working to agree Gaddafi exit
MOSCOW, Jul 5 (Agencies):
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Published on 5 Jul. 2011 9:40 PM IST
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Russia has stepped up its efforts to negotiate a resolution to the war in Libya, with Moscow officials receiving the Secretary-General of NATO and the South African President, Jacob Zuma, who has offered his services as a mediator.
At the same time, the president of the World Chess Federation, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is acting as Moscow’s informal go-between with Libya’s embattled leader, Muammar Gaddafi, made his second trip to Tripoli.
On his last visit, Mr Ilyumzhinov played chess with Colonel Gaddafi while discussing whether he would consider stepping down and leaving Libya. During the match, Mr Ilyumzhinov said later, he manoeuvred the Libyan leader close to checkmate, but then offered him a draw instead.
In their conversation, Colonel Gaddafi said that he intended to die on Libyan soil and he would not consider any negotiated settlement that called for his departure from the country.
On Monday, Mr Ilyumzhinov told Russian news agencies that he had met the leader’s eldest son, Muhammad, and had again been told that Colonel Gaddafi would not leave Libya.
The Russian diplomatic effort to open a channel of communication with the Libyan leader, who has been a major buyer of Russian weapons for years, began after the country’s President, Dmitry Medvedev, met the American President, Barack Obama, on the sidelines of a Group of Eight gathering which took place in France in May.
At that meeting, Mr Medvedev offered to serve as a mediator and to use what leverage Russia has in Libya to persuade Colonel Gaddafi to cede power. To date, with Colonel Gaddafi refusing the Libyan rebels’ demands that he leave the country, none of Moscow’s forays have borne fruit.
Russia has sharply criticised the NATO bombing campaign as overstepping the UN mandate to protect civilians and, instead, apparently aiming to oust Colonel Gaddafi. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also condemned a recently confirmed French weapons airdrop to the Libyan rebels, saying this, too, violated the UN resolution.
Mr Medvedev has, however, said that Colonel Gaddafi must step down.
After Monday’s meeting with the NATO Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, at a Russian government retreat, surrounded by palm trees in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Mr Medvedev offered encouraging words but no specifics.
‘’I think all of us are inspired with the results,’’ he said. ‘’The meeting was rather productive, and I hope we made progress.’’
Mr Medvedev also met Mr Zuma, who has negotiated on behalf of the African Union and proposed that an interim government take power in Libya.
The AU has urged members to ignore an arrest warrant for Colonel Gaddafi issued by the International Criminal Court, saying it could hinder a resolution.

 
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