Tony Blair: Do not underestimate Gadhafi
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair cautioned the international community against taking Col. Moammar Gadhafi lightly, as a delegation of African leaders arriving in Tripoli said the Libyan dictator had accepted a cease-fire “road map” that they would soon present to the rebel faction.
He stressed that “the status quo is not the option” in Libya, but that it is up to the Libyan people to decide their future.
Meanwhile Sunday, several African Union leaders met with Col. Gadhafi at his Tripoli compound and said his delegation would present the rebels Monday with a road map that calls for free passage for humanitarian aid, an immediate cease-fire, and a rebel-government dialogue.
“We have completed our mission with the brother leader, and the brother leader’s delegation has accepted the road map as presented by us,” South African President Jacob Zuma told reporters in Tripoli, also calling on NATO to end its airstrikes and “give the cease-fire a chance.”
In a broad sense, Mr. Blair said a “steady evolution of change” is preferable to the rapid uprisings recently seen across the Middle East, partly because a slower-moving process makes the situation easier to understand and the outcome easier to predict for Israel, the United States and other nations.
Despite the fast-paced changes, Mr. Blair believes that al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists in the region will not be able to “gain sway” because the “modernizing and democratic forces are strong and they are determined.”
Speaking on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on Sunday, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III called U.S. intervention in Libya “an appropriate exception” to the rule that “you really ought not to use military force unless you have a substantial … national interest at stake.”
“Sooner or later, you will lose the support of the American people, and the body bags start coming home,” he said.
Mr. Baker said involvement in Libya is acceptable because there are clear limits on what the United States is willing to do. President Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates have stressed there will be no U.S. ground presence in Libya.
Four airstrikes largely stopped what had been heavy shelling of Ajdabiya by government forces, rebel battlefield commander and spokesman Col. Hamid Hassy said. NATO’s leader of the operation said the airstrikes destroyed 11 tanks near Ajdabiya and another 14 near Misrata, the only city rebels still hold in the western half of Libya.
Col. Hassy said Col. Gadhafi’s forces fled the western gate of Ajdabiya and by midafternoon had been pushed back about 40 miles west of the city. However, sporadic shelling still could be heard on the city’s western edge.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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