France and Britain seek exit from Libya

With their Libya bombing campaign dragging on unresolved, France and Britain have been forced to accept ruler Muammar Qaddafi may stay there if he quits power, despite calls for international justice.

Britain denied the joint position was a climb-down after it had repeatedly called for him to quit the country, while France last week was the first to openly suggest he could stay under a negotiated settlement.

Analysts and diplomats said the joint stance at a meeting of their foreign ministers Monday showed rising pressure to get Qaddafi out of power and end their military operations which are dragging on longer than expected.

“There is pressure from the French side to try to find a political solution,” said Denis Bauchard, of the Paris-based international relations institute IFRI.

“The British are going the same way as France, who are taking the lead in this matter.”

There was little sign that Qaddafi’s departure was imminent, however, some four months after Western powers launched their air campaign to stop his forces crushing a rebellion.

Top US officer Admiral Michael Mullen spoke recently of “stalemate” in NATO’s campaign, launched in March against Qaddafi’s forces in accordance with a UN Security Council resolution, and spearheaded by France and Britain.

French officials warn that a settlement will be fraught with complications, since Qaddafi would have to be protected from assassination and may demand protection from prosecution as part of a negotiated deal.

“The only possible way out for Qaddafi is feet first,” dead, said one French diplomat who asked not to be named.

A British diplomatic source denied any change to its strategy on Libya after Foreign Secretary William Hague suggested Qaddafi could be allowed to stay in the country if he quit power, having repeatedly called for him to leave.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Qaddafi on charges of crimes against humanity during his crackdown on the rebellion that began in mid-February. He “should face justice,” the British source said.

“Obviously him leaving Libya itself would be the best way of showing the Libyan people that they no longer have to live in fear of Qaddafi,” Hague said Monday ahead of talks with French counterpart Alain Juppé.

“But as I have said all along, this is ultimately a question for Libyans to determine,” added Hague. “Whatever happens, Qaddafi must leave power.”

Juppé said the allies were in “perfect co-operation” over the UN-sanctioned mission, which began in March, despite suggestions in France that the mission was dragging on too long.

“We think that we must continue to exert strong pressure on the Libyan regime with the same methods,” he said.

The leader of the Libyan rebels’ Transitional National Council, Mustapha Abdel Jalil, appeared to soften his stance, saying in Monday’s Wall Street Journal that “Qaddafi can stay in Libya but it will have conditions.”

He said these terms would be decided by the rebels, who are battling against forces loyal to Qaddafi, trying to dislodge him.

“One of the possibilities being considered is that he stay in Libya but on the clear condition that he steps aside from Libyan political life,” Juppé said last week.

“That is what we are waiting for before we start the political process for a ceasefire.”

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French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron

French forces "tortured and murdered" Algerian freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel during his country's war for independence, President Emmanuel Macron admitted on Tuesday, officially reappraising a death that was covered up as a suicide.

French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron
Malika, the widow of Ali Boumendjel, pictured in 2001. Photo: Stefan Fferberg/AFP

Macron made the admission “in the name of France” during a meeting with Boumendjel’s grandchildren.

The move comes after Macron in January refused to issue an official apology for abuses committed during the occupation of Algeria – instead, he agreed to form a “truth commission” as recommended by a report commissioned by the government to shed light on France’s colonial past.

Atrocities committed by both sides during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence continue to strain relations between the countries.

Boumendjel, a nationalist and lawyer, was arrested during the battle of Algiers by the French army, “placed incommunicado, tortured, and then killed on 23 March 1957,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

“Ali Boumendjel did not commit suicide. He was tortured and then killed,” Macron told Boumendjel’s grandchildren, according to the statement.

It is not the first time the real cause of death was acknowledged.

In 2000, the former head of French intelligence in Algiers Paul Aussaresses confessed to ordering Boumendjel’s death and disguising the murder as a suicide, according to the statement.

It added that Macron on Tuesday had also reiterated his desire to give families the opportunity to find out the truth about this chapter of history.

Last month, Boumendjel’s niece Fadela Boumendjel-Chitour denounced what she called the “devastating” lie the French state had told about her uncle.

French historian Benjamin Stora, who wrote the government-commissioned report, has said there is a “never-ending memory war” between the two countries.

The report has been described by the Algerian government as “not objective” and falling “below expectations.”

During his 2017 election campaign, Macron – the first president born after the colonial period – declared that the occupation of Algeria was a “crime against humanity”.

He has since said there was “no question of showing repentance” or of “presenting an apology” for abuses committed in the North African country.