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France ‘in contact, not negotiating’ with Libya

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday that France had had "contacts" with the Libyan regime concerning the departure of leader Muammar Qaddafi but no real negotiations had taken place.

“There have indeed been contacts, but it has not turned into a real negotiation,” he told France Info radio station. “The Libyan regime is sending messengers everywhere: to Turkey, New York, Paris,” he said.

“We are meeting envoys who say to us: look, ‘Qaddafi is ready to go, let’s talk about it’,” he added.

Qaddafi’s son Seif Al-Islam told the Algerian daily El Khabar in an interview published Monday that Tripoli was “holding real negotiations with France and not with the rebels” fighting to out him.

France has been taking part for four months in a military campaign targeting Qaddafi’s military sites under a UN mandate to protect civilians from his forces. The French parliament was expected to vote on Tuesday to prolong the mission.

France’s government has said the NATO bombings will not stop until Qaddafi quits power.

“The conditions for a ceasefire are not yet met,” Juppe said Tuesday.

These are a return of Qaddafi’s troops to their barracks, permission for UN monitors on the ground and “a declaration by Qaddafi, in a form yet to determined, that he is withdrawing from political and military power,” he said.

The prime minister in Qaddafi’s regime, Baghdadi al-Mahmudi, said negotiations between Tripoli, the rebels and NATO could go ahead without Qaddafi’s involvement.

“The Guide will not intervene in these discussions. Everything must be done freely,” he was quoted as saying by French daily Le Figaro.

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