French say Gaddafi is 'prepared to leave'
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is "prepared to leave", the French foreign minister claimed last night, citing emissaries of the Libyan dictator.
It is the strongest indication to date that the embattled leader is prepared to withdraw from power.
While Alain Juppe denied holding "direct" negotiations with Gaddafi's regime, he confirmed Libyan officials were in communication with his emissaries, and that their message was clear.
"Everyone (involved in Libya's civil war) has contacts with everyone else. The Libyan regime sends its messengers all over, to Turkey, to New York, to Paris," Mr Juppe told France Info radio.
"We receive emissaries who are saying, 'Gaddafi is prepared to leave. Let's talk about it'."
Francois Fillon, France's prime minister, said that a political solution was needed more than ever, adding that he saw signs one was emerging.
"A political solution is more than ever indispensable and is beginning to take shape," he told a parliamentary commission, which is expected to vote later in the day on whether to extend operations in Libya.
Diplomatic sources say that President Nicolas Sarkozy is adamant that the dictator should leave Libya completely.
"So far, it's been like a dialogue between deaf people, they are not on the same page," the source said, adding: "For Sarkozy, it's unthinkable that Gaddafi remain in Libya or a neighbouring country. He is insistent."
Mr Juppe's assertion appeared to be an attempt to assuage doubts over France's resolve to see the embattled leader give up power as a condition for ending hostilities.
These surfaced after Gerard Longuet, the defence minister, said it was time to "get round a table" with the regime, and that Gaddafi could "remain in a different room in his palace, with a different title".
While the French government denied claims by Gaddafi's son that direct talks were under way, Mr Longuet's remarks pointed to growing French restlessness over the stalemate. (© Daily Telegraph, London)