US officials met Saturday in secret face-to-face talks with representatives from the Libyan government, with one primary message -- the ouster of Libya's leader -- on the agenda, according to Reuters.
Although Tripoli went to the meeting demanding talks with no preconditions, American officials said bluntly the encounter had been arranged to make clear that the only option left to Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi is to step down.
Libya's foreign minister is set to meet with his counterpart in Moscow Wednesday, according to the Itar-Tass news agency. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is one of the few world leaders who is still holding out hope to the Libyan government that compromise may be possible. But it is not clear what compromise Moscow is proposing.
Government officials are scrambling to reach out to any nation willing to talk at this point, but claim they want the right for Libyans to determine their own future, even as Libyan rebel forces tighten their grip around the strategic oil-rich eastern town of Brega. Meanwhile, the rebel stronghold of Benghazi continues to develop its shadow government in preparation for leadership and life after Qaddafi.
Qaddafi government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters Monday, “We will discuss everything [with the French, Americans or British] but do not condition [sic] your peace talks. Let Libyans decide their future.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney responded Tuesday by pointing out that by every measure, “the situation is moving against Colonel Qaddafi. He controls less territory. The opposition is on the offensive in a variety of areas of the country. Qaddafi is cut off from fuel and cash.”
Similarly, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said his own special envoy, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, was playing a role in trying to persuade Qaddafi to step down. Khatib, a former Jordanian foreign minister, was authorized by the U.N. to present terms for Qaddafi to leave power, Ban said.