Africa

Libya: Gaddafi envoy Abdelati Obeidi arrives in Greece

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi (file image from 2008, European Commission)
Image caption Mr Obeidi is responsible for European affairs

An envoy from Muammar Gaddafi's embattled government, Deputy Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi, has arrived in Athens on an apparent peace mission.

There was no Libyan comment on the visit but Greek sources said it was aimed at finding a political resolution to the current Libyan crisis.

Greek officials made clear that Mr Obeidi's arrival in the Greek capital was not a defection.

He flew there from Djerba, Tunisia, after crossing the Libyan border.

The movements of senior Libyan officials have been closely monitored since Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa defected last week.

Mr Obeidi accompanied the minister to Djerba airport but returned to Libya on that occasion while Mr Koussa flew on to London, AFP news agency reports.

Libya is currently divided between forces loyal to Col Gaddafi's government and armed rebels fighting to overthrow him following a revolt in mid-February.

A Nato-led coalition is enforcing a no-fly zone and other measures against Col Gaddafi's forces, accused of attacking civilians.

Good relationship

At the foreign ministry, Mr Obeidi is responsible for European affairs.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou agreed to meet him after a round of telephone diplomacy in which he held conversations with the prime ministers of Britain, Turkey, Qatar and Libya.

"A political solution is the only solution," a senior Greek source said. "We are here to receive the Libyans message," the source added.

It is unsurprising that the Greeks have been identified by the Libyans as possible peace brokers, the BBC's Malcolm Brabant reports from Athens.

Mr Papandreou met Colonel Gadaffi almost a year ago when he flew to the Libyan capital Tripoli and solicited vague promises of financial help during Greece's economic crisis.

He was building on the good relationship between Athens and Tripoli established by his late father, Andreas Papandreou, a maverick former Greek prime minister.

The former prime minister defied the West by embracing Col Gadaffi in the 1980s, at a time when he was regarded by Washington as a pariah.

Three Greek military bases are being used to support the no fly zone operation over Libya but Athens has been keen to emphasise that it is not taking a offensive role in the allied campaign because it wants to keep open potential back channels for dialogue.