Qaddafi Seems Constantly About to Step Down

How do we know it's for real this time?

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Today, French foreign minister Alain Juppé revived hopes that Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi will step down on his own volition and bring an end to the protracted conflict in his North African country. "Emissaries are telling us Gaddafi is ready to go, let's talk about it," he told reporters, not specifying which emissaries gave him that information. "The question is no longer about whether Gaddafi goes but when and how." While it's a comforting notion that Qaddafi has given up on his pledge to remain in power "dead or alive" as he vowed last month, it's a notion we've heard before from the media and officials belonging to NATO member countries. Is Qaddafi really stepping down this time?  A history of his "on the verge" moments:

March 7  Reuters reported that the Libyan regime was trying to negotiate an agreement that  "would see Gaddafi hand power to the head of parliament and leave the country with a certain guaranteed sum of money.'"

March 8  Al Jazeera reported that Qaddafi had made an offer to rebels to step down: "A spokesman for the opposition National Council in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi confirmed that a representative had sought to negotiate Gaddafi's exit." Two other publications also carried the story. "The London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat and the daily al-Bayan, based in the United Arab Emirates, also cited unnamed sources as saying Gaddafi was looking for an agreement," reported Reuters. Later, officials on Libyan state television denied the report.

June 6  An anonymous official speaking with Russian newspaper Kommersant said "the colonel (Gaddafi) is sending signals that he is prepared to relinquish power in exchange for security guarantees."

June 9  In a meeting of the International Contact Group on Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it sound as if Qaddafi was on his last legs. "Qaddafi's days are numbered," she said. "We are working with our international partners through the UN to plan for the inevitable: a post-Gaddafi Libya."

Today  Juppé tells France Info radio that it's just a matter of time. "There is a consensus on how to end the crisis, which is that Gaddafi has to leave power," he said. "That [consensus] was absolutely not a given two or three months ago." Another French diplomat says "There are indications that people around Gaddafi would envisage a solution that includes him being out of power rather than in" reports The Guardian.

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