Major talks on Libya get underway in Turkey
Top officials from major Western and regional powers gathered in Turkey on Friday to discuss strategies to strengthen the Libyan opposition and force embattled leader Moamer Kadhafi to step down.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague and his French and Italian counterparts, Alain Juppé and Franco Frattini and Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will attend the talks in Istanbul.
The de facto foreign minister of the National Transitional Council, NTC, Mahmoud Jibril, will also join the meeting, where aid for the cash-strapped rebels, both military and financial, is set to be high on the agenda.
The fourth meeting of the Libya contact group follows prior contacts between France and members of Kadhafi's regime that have raised the possibility of negotiating the Libyan leader’s departure.
After four months of Nato-led bombing, Kadhafi is still in control of the capital,Tripoli.
Ahead of the talks the US said it was hoping for an NTC "roadmap, which we hope and expect will be for a democratic Libya, an inclusive process that includes all parts of Libyan society”.
On Tuesday France, which has played a key role in rallying support for the rebels, said a political solution to the conflict could be within reach.
"We are meeting envoys (of the regime) who say to us: look, 'Kadhafi is ready to go, let's talk about it'," said Juppé, adding that the contacts did not yet amount to serious negotiations.
But the US remains unconvinced and cautioned about contradictory diplomatic signals from Tripoli.
"We are not persuaded yet that any of this is persuasive in terms of the red lines that we have laid out," said an official travelling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Representatives of some 40 countries and international organisations will also attend the Istanbul gathering.
Both Russia and China were invited to join the meeting, but turned down the offer. Moscow and Beijing have been critical of the Nato-led campaign.
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