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France in contact, not negotiating, with Libya

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French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday that France had had “contacts” with the Libyan regime concerning the departure of leader Moamer Kadhafi 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.

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

Kadhafi’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 Kadhafi’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 Kadhafi quits power.

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

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

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