Libya's Gaddafi prepared to leave, says Alain Juppe

Muammar Gaddafi (April 2011 picture) Muammar Gaddafi is holding Tripoli and other parts of western Libya

France says it has had contacts with envoys from Muammar Gaddafi who say the Libyan leader is "prepared to leave".

"The Libyan regime is sending messengers everywhere, to Turkey, to New York, to Paris" offering to discuss Col Gaddafi's exit, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told French radio.

But he added that such contacts did not constitute negotiations.

France played a key role in launching Nato-led strikes in Libya, under a UN-mandated mission to protect civilians.

Mr Juppe told France Info radio on Tuesday: "We are receiving emissaries who are telling us: 'Gaddafi is prepared to leave. Let's discuss it.'

"There are contacts but it's not a negotiation proper at this stage."

Mr Juppe did not say who the emissaries were.

French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said: "These are emissaries who say they are coming in the name of Gaddafi. What is important is that we send them the same message and stay in close contact with our allies on this."

Stalemate

The comments come as the French parliament debated the continuation of air strikes over Libya, four months into the campaign.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon told the assembly that a political solution was "beginning to take shape".

Hugh Schofield in Paris says that although this may turn out to be overblown, the French - who are prime movers in the Libya campaign - seem to be showing the first signs that it could be heading towards a conclusion.

Rebels are holding eastern Libya and pockets in the west, but have so far not made decisive moves towards the capital Tripoli, where Col Gaddafi remains entrenched.

France and other coalition countries have insisted that the Libyan leader must stand down for hostilities to end.

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