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Libyan opposition leaders invited to European Parliament

08 March 2011, 18:26 CET
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(STRASBOURG) - Two members of Libya's rebel leadership, the provisional national council, are to talk to members of the European Parliament, the head of the liberal group Guy Verhofstadt said Tuesday.

Mahmud Gebril, 58, Libya's former planning minister and Ali al-Essawi, 45, former ambassador to India, have agreed to travel to Strasbourg to inform the Liberal group, one of the biggest in the assembly, of developments in Libya, he said.

The French government has opened the way for the two leaders to come to France and a meeting with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe is planned for Wednesday, Verhofstadt said.

The visit is a coup for the former Belgian prime minister who managed to contact the opposition leaders unlike European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

"I simply activated the Liberals' network of contacts," he told AFP.

He said he had been in touch with Ashton so she can meet the two Libyans. She is due in Strasbourg Wednesday for a debate on Libya before a EU summit in Brussels Friday.

The EU commissioner for humanitarian aid Kristalina Georgieva will see the Libyan leaders Tuesday. She has said she was worried by the way the situation is developing.

"Libya is in the process of drifting into civil war," she told AFP.

"We are ready for the worst," she said, adding that the EU had already mobilised 53 million euros (74 million dollars), 30 million of them from the community budget.

"Everything needs to be done to reduce the suffering of the people," she said, while refusing to be drawn on the steps to take to help the opposition to Kadhafi.

"It is not my area of competence, but if there is a unanimous position to impose an air exclusion zone and that could help the people, it will be legitimate," she said.

She also hoped that the envoy sent to Tripoli by Ashton would ask the forces loyal to Kadhafi to let those Libyans wanting to go to Tunisia to do so but said she was not optimistic about the chances of success.

The parliament is due to give its view Wednesday on the measures the EU should take to help the Libyan opposition but were split Tuesday.

The Greens and Liberals back the creation of a no-fly zone to prevent Kadhafi bombing rebel positions.

"The air exclusion zone should have been decided on a long time ago," Verhofstadt said.

"The aim is for Kadhafi not to win and that is what we expect from the UE leaders' summit," said the Greens' co-president Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

"We must know what we want. The Libyans want to be rid of Kadhafi, we have to find ways to back those fighting against him and prevent a civil war."

Socialist leader Martin Schulz was more reserved, saying a United Nations mandate and Arab League participation were essential for the creation of a no-fly zone.

"To say like Schulz 'everything is impossible' seems to me a bit feeble as a position," Cohn-Bendit said.

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