US, Libyan opposition meet in Cairo
WASHINGTON – US Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz and other US officials met in Cairo with members of the opposition seeking to topple Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, the State Department said Tuesday.
The State Department declined to identify Cretz’s interlocutors but said Washington has been in contact with opposition members inside and outside the National Council, which is headed by former Libyan justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil.
“We are engaging a wide range of leaders, and those who both understand and can potentially influence events in Libya,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.
“Cretz over the past few days was in Rome and Cairo for multiple meetings, both with Italian government officials, Egyptian government officials, but also opposition figures within Libya.”
His talks with the Libyan opposition sought to “gain a greater understanding and perspective on what’s happening,” Crowley added.
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Cretz authored several secret diplomatic cables revealed by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks filled with speculation over Kadhafi’s health and describing the longest-serving Arab leader’s idiosyncrasies, such as his reliance on a “voluptuous” blonde Ukrainian nurse.
The United States “will continue to watch the council” formed by the opposition, which is based in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
“My understanding is they have announced some of their membership, not all of their membership. Eventually, you know, within Libya a formal opposition will emerge. We’re watching to see how that develops,” he added.
Crowley noted that Libyan Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa telephoned Jeffrey Feltman, the US assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, but provided no further details about the “very brief” conversation.