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Italy Says No Stalemate in Libya

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, left, and Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the executive committee of Libya's rebel group, the Transitional National Council in Naples, Italy (File Photo - June 17, 2011)

Italy’s foreign ministry spokesman, Maurizio Massari, insists the international community is on the right track in Libya and that the next step is for political negotiations to kick off to end the rule of long-time leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Despite slow rebel advances in Libya and the fact no political negotiations are yet underway, the Italian foreign ministry spokesman says he is optimistic about the country’s future. Maurizio Massari was speaking two days before the international contact group on Libya is to meet in Istanbul.

“Our assessment is positive," he said. "We refuse the idea that we are in a situation of stalemate. We are making progress on the ground. The ability of the Gadhafi regime to attack civilians has been severely damaged.”

Massari added that the Transitional National Council of the Libyan opposition now has increased legitimacy, as it has been recognized by 18 states. He said the time has come to work politically as well as militarily.

“We would like to prepare the conditions to pave the way for future negotiations but we are still in a preliminary stage,” said Messari.

He indicated three priorities for the Istanbul meeting of the contact group: the search for a political solution to Libya's conflict, the identification of economic support mechanisms for the rebels, and a post-conflict plan.

Massari said time is not on Gadhafi’s side.

The contact group meeting is expected to discuss the political conditions needed for negotiations on Libya's future to take place.

The conditions, Massari said, must include the acceptance that Moammar Gadhafi cannot be part of any political solution, the acceptance of dialogue among different Libyan groups, and the need for a cease-fire to be in place because otherwise it is not possible to negotiate.

“We are gradually building the conditions for a democratic and united Libya," added Massari. "Of course there is still a lot of work to do but we are on the right track.”

The Italian diplomat said Italy fully backs the democratic credentials of the opposition Transitional National Council and the need for it to engage in dialogue with the other components of Libyan society. He added that the African Union’s acceptance that Gadhafi must leave power is a very positive development.