Libya: London conference aimed at 'endgame' for Gaddafi

Libyan rebel vehicles pack the road between Ras Lanuf and Sirte, 28 March
Image caption Some diplomats believe the momentum is with the Libyan rebels

More than 40 foreign ministers from Europe, the US, Canada and a number of Arab states will join UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the heads of a variety of regional organisations for a high-level conference on Libya in London.

The goal is both to reassert the existing policy that has been championed by the British and French governments but also to achieve an agreement on what should happen next in Libya.

A little over a week ago, a conference in Paris set the stage for the enforcement of the no-fly zone over Libya and the start of air operations against Libyan government forces.

The London conference is intended to begin the shift towards the diplomatic endgame - to offer strong international backing to create the conditions in which the people of Libya can choose their own future.

Wishful thinking

On the eve of the conference, a joint statement from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron insisted that the current Libyan government had lost all legitimacy.

It called on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's followers to abandon him.

It also called on his opponents to take the initiative to organise a transition process.

There is an element of wishful thinking here as long as Col Gaddafi remains in power but leaders in London and Paris clearly believe that the tide is turning.

Opposition forces are now re-taking lost territory. A moment has come when external political pressure could force the regime to a tipping point.

This Franco-British statement is as close as it gets to a call for "regime change" but the onus is placed squarely on the Libyan people to do the job themselves.

Nonetheless, the air campaign looks set to continue. The hope is that this, together with a further display of international resolve and a commitment to stay the course, could serve to topple Col Gaddafi once and for all.