Russia Seeks to Bridge Libyan Civil War in Qaddafi Exit Talks

Russia wants to mediate between the two sides in Libya’s civil war as it tries to negotiate the exit from power of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, said Mikhail Margelov, the country’s envoy to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Margelov will travel to Libya "in the nearest time" to meet with the rebel leadership, he said by phone from Moscow yesterday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in contact with Tripoli, held by Qaddafi’s forces, he said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on May 27 said Qaddafi has forfeited his right to govern and his country is using its contacts with the regime’s leadership to persuade him to step down. Russia abstained from the United Nations Security Council vote in March that authorized a NATO-led military intervention in Libya.

"My trip is an attempt to help the Libyan elite find a national consensus," Margelov said. Russia "has a unique opportunity to become a bridge between those parts of the Libyan political elite which see the future of their country as one united state."

Any solution must "be acceptable to all Libyans," Lavrov said in an interview yesterday, echoing comments South African President Jacob Zuma made after returning from Tripoli in a trip backed by the African Union.

Russia itself isn’t involved in negotiating "any deals of immunity or guarantees" for Qaddafi, though the leaders of other countries involved are considering a range of options, Lavrov said. Qaddafi’s future is "the most delicate topic," said Margelov, who also heads the International Affairs Committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council.

"The question of guarantees or immunity, even if it’s being discussed at the highest levels, isn’t public information and doesn’t need to be advertised," Margelov said.

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