Under pressure from allies and growing calls for military intervention in Libya, the Obama administration on Monday held its first high-level talks with the Libyan opposition and introduced a liaison to deal full time with their ranks. But it remained undecided about exactly how much support to lend a group it still knows little about while turmoil and uncertainty increase across the Arab world.
In Paris, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton held a late-night, 45-minute meeting with a senior Libyan opposition figure after discussing the widening crisis with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy, along with British Prime Minister David Cameron, meanwhile, stepped up calls for world powers to isolate Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi with a no-fly zone, amid diplomatic differences over how much backing to give rebels.
Clinton’s closed-door meeting with opposition figure member Mahmoud Jibril in a luxury Paris hotel was shrouded in secrecy until it happened, with neither the time nor the identity of her interlocutors announced beforehand.
Neither Jibril, an official in the newly formed Interim Governing Council based in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, nor Clinton appeared or made any comments about their talks. Jibril met with Sarkozy in Paris last week before photographers and journalists.
Jibril was introduced to Clinton by the administration’s new point man for the Libyan opposition, Chris Stevens, who was until recently the deputy chief of mission at the now-shuttered U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. Also at the meeting was Gene Cretz, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, who left his post for consultations in early January and has not returned.
“They had a private and candid conversation about ways in which the United States can assist the Libyan people in their efforts against the Qaddafi regime,” Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines said after the talks.
Although the meeting might have been a deciding factor in the administration’s approach to the opposition no announcements were made after and the mystery surrounding it underscored the administration’s lack of clarity as to who is who in the movement that has sprung up to topple Qaddafi from the perch he has held for 42 years.” (Read more: CBS News, 3/14/2011) (Archive)