A former British government minister held talks with Libya’s foreign minister in the Tunisian capital, one of the participants in the meeting told Reuters.
Britain’s government denied it had any contact with officials loyal to Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, but the meeting took place against a backdrop of mounting Western pressure for Gaddafi’s entourage to negotiate a way out of the conflict.
Lord David Trefgarne, a junior government minister in the 1980s, who is chairman of the non-governmental Libyan British Business Council, met Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi in Tunis on Saturday, said the participant, Reuters reports.
“I can confirm that the meeting took place. It lasted for over an hour. Neither us of was authorised to have the meeting, either by the council or by the British government,” said Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Libya and deputy chairman of the council.
Asked if the meeting was connected to attempts to negotiate a settlement to the Libya conflict, Miles declined to comment.
“Speaking personally, I am a former diplomat and that is my background. I regarded what I did as something that I had to do,” he said by telephone.
“Obviously the interests of our members are a concern but that is not why we had the meeting.”
Asked to comment on the meeting, a spokeswoman for Britain’s Foreign Office said: “No representatives of HMG (Her Majesty’s Government), or intermediaries, are involved in negotiations with the Libyan regime about a ceasefire.”
“Our position is clear. Gaddafi must go, so that the Libyan people can determine their own future.”
There was no immediate comment from officials in Tripoli.
NATO warplanes have for the past two months been launching air strikes on Libya as part of a United Nations mandate to protect civilians who rose up in February in a rebellion against Gaddafi’s 41-year-rule.
Gaddafi has denied his forces killed any civilians and has said the NATO intervention is an act of colonial aggression aimed at grabbing Libya’s oil reserves.