Tony Blair urged Muammar Gaddafi to stand aside, phone transcripts show


Tony Blair tried to persuade Muammar Gaddafi to stand aside and accept a change of government to stop protests against his rule descending into violence, newly-released transcripts of telephone calls show.

In the two calls, made on February 25 2011 - a week after the Libyan regime responded with violence to demonstrations in Benghazi and other cities - the former prime minister offered to help Col Gaddafi in working with the US and EU to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

But he made clear that if Gaddafi did not signal his willingness to stand aside, it could result in "bloodshed for a lot of Libyan people".

The transcripts, released by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, were provided by Mr Blair's office after he gave evidence to the committee last month as part of its inquiry into UK foreign policy towards Libya.

As prime minister, Mr Blair played a key role in bringing Libya back in from the cold after years of international sanctions, famously meeting Gaddafi in his desert tent in 2004.

In the second call, a clearly suspicious Gaddafi told Mr Blair his plan sounded like "colonisation" and said he was ready to arm his people to fight any outside intervention.

He insisted that any violence was the fault of al Qaida sleeper cells within Libya and warned that the uprising was part of a plot by armed Islamists to "control the Mediterranean... and then attack Europe".

Mr Blair assured the Libyan leader that he was "absolutely not" suggesting military intervention to restore peace, but warned that the situation within the north African country could quickly become "very destructive" if Gaddafi did not call for an end to the violence and signal his readiness to engage in a process of change.

"The position of the leader is crucial," said Mr Blair. "If he indicates that he wants this to occur now and that he will stand aside and go somewhere safe, I think this will resolve this peacefully. If he wishes this to happen, I can take this message back to the people I have been talking to.

"There is a process of change that is going to take place - that has been made clear by the leader himself. He needs to signal acceptance of that change and he needs to stand aside to let that happen peacefully."

But Gaddafi responded: "There is no bloodshed here. It is very quiet. But if you want to reap Libya, we are ready to fight. It will be like Iraq."

The conversation ended with Gaddafi telling Blair to "just leave us alone", as the former prime minister urged him to "keep the lines open".

The demonstrations later descended into civil war and Britain joined an international campaign of airstrikes to protect Libyan rebels against regime forces.

In October - eight months after Mr Blair's effort to find a solution - Gaddafi's power finally evaporated and the leader was lynched by a mob as he attempted to flee.

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