NATO, China, Russia reach informal consensus: Gadhafi must go

Friday, March 4, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

LONDON NATO has quietly assessed that Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi must be quickly toppled to avoid a protracted civil war that would jeopardize energy supplies.

Diplomats and analysts said the Western alliance, led by Britain, France, Germany and the United States, have informally agreed that Gadhafi should be quietly but quickly removed from power in Libya. They said special forces from several NATO countries have begun helping the Libyan opposition to destroy regime assets.

The NATO position has been discussed with China and Russia, diplomatic sources said. They said Beijing and Moscow have also determined that Gadhafi must not be allowed to remain in power.

"If NATO does nothing, Gadhafi could regain most of Libya," a Western diplomatic source said. "This prospect is highly threatening to Western interests, both in terms of energy as well as terrorism."

So far, the alliance has not approved any military option in Libya. But several of its leading members have agreed that Gadhafi must be ousted and a pro-Western regime installed over the next few weeks.

"Gadhafi will not leave, and if he stays in power he will cut all ties to the West and seize Western energy assets," the diplomat said. "He will do his best to hurt the European Union and the United States, and this cannot be tolerated."

The most feasible option for NATO would be to assign special forces to conduct sabotage operations against the Gadhafi regime, a Western analyst close to the alliance said. On March 2, a fuel truck exploded in downtown Tripoli that sparked fires throughout the area. It was not clear whether the explosion was an accident or sabotage.

At the same time, Western military advisers could help organize rebel operations meant to collapse the regime from safe havens along the Libyan borders with Egypt and Tunisia. Analysts said the goal would be to frighten Gadhafi supporters and perhaps the colonel, himself, to free Tripoli.

"The revolt in Libya has reached the point where the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi appears to be the only viable solution," Russian analyst Andrei Fedyashin said. "Outside military intervention is all but inevitable, be it direct or in the guise of 'humanitarian aid' to the opposition and rebel forces."

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