An International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of Muammar Gaddafi is not necessarily an obstacle to him leaving Libya to end its four-month-long crisis, said a British minister.
Some analysts have said that the decision by a war crimes prosecutor in The Hague last month to seek an arrest warrant for Gaddafi had given him an incentive to cling to power for fear that he could face prosecution if he left Libya.
“I understand (the) point on the ICC very clearly … I don’t think in reality it’s an absolute bar to people moving,” British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said when asked about the prospects of Gaddafi going into exile, Reuters reports.
“I think the truth is, the facts of life are, that people are talking to Colonel Gaddafi about that possibility (of leaving). Of course they are,” Burt said during a discussion on Libya at London’s Chatham House think-tank.
He said he was sure it was part of the remit of South African President Jacob Zuma, who has been trying to mediate in the Libya crisis, to discuss Gaddafi going into exile.
“It is not a matter for the UK government where Colonel Gaddafi might go,” said Burt, who will represent Britain at a meeting of an international contact group on Libya in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
He said the British government had previously made clear it would not stand in the way of Gaddafi’s exit “but equally it’s not up to us to start picking countries or suggest places where it takes a little while for the post to get through.”
Zuma said after meeting the Libyan leader in Tripoli last Monday that Gaddafi was not prepared to leave Libya but would pursue a political solution to the country’s civil war.
Some analysts have suggested Gaddafi could find a safe haven in Venezuela or Zimbabwe, whose leaders are anti-Western.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo sought a warrant for Gaddafi on May 16, accusing him of killing protesters against his four-decade rule.
He also asked judges, who must now see if there is enough evidence to issue warrants, for the arrest of Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam and his spy chief brother-in-law Abdullah al-Senussi.
A steady stream of Libyan officials has defected as NATO has stepped up a bombing campaign in effective support of rebels seeking to oust Gaddafi, who has been in power almost 42 years.