Defections, not war, will oust Gaddafi: Italy

ROME (Reuters) – Defections among Muammar Gaddafi’s closest associates rather than Western military action will oust the Libyan leader, Italy’s foreign minister said on Thursday.

Franco Frattini, who will meet a leading member of the Libyan rebels on Monday, was speaking after news that Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, one of Gaddafi’s closest advisers, defected and flew to Britain.

“It is not through actions of war that we can make Gaddafi leave, but rather through strong international pressure to encourage defections by people close to him,” Frattini told Canale 5 television.

“(Those people) understand already or will understand very soon that the regime is isolated internationally and that Gaddafi cannot be part of national reconciliation,” he said.

Italy, which was Gaddafi’s closest ally in Europe before fighting in its former colony broke out last month, only reluctantly joined military operations earlier against his forces this month, feeling sidelined by France and Britain.

Frattini said he was in close contact with the rebels fighting to end Gaddafi’s four-decade long rule, and that he would hold talks with Ali Essawi, the rebel official in charge of foreign affairs, in Rome on Monday.

He also reiterated Italy’s view that Gaddafi should go in exile and urged the African Union to find a country that would give him asylum.

(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Jon Boyle)

Defections, not war, will oust Gaddafi: Italy