Venezuela: Gadhafi supports Chavez peace proposal

AP News
|
Posted: Mar 03, 2011 11:15 PM
Venezuela: Gadhafi supports Chavez peace proposal

Moammar Gadhafi supports a plan proposed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to help mediate a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Libya, a Venezuelan official said Thursday.

Information Minister Andres Izarra said on Twitter that Venezuela's foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, spoke with his Libyan counterpart, who in Gadhafi's name confirmed his government's support for the peace initiative proposed by Chavez.

"Libya's official acceptance of Chavez's peace proposal is news that we believe raises hopes for the possibility of a negotiated and peaceful way out of the conflict," Izarra told The Associated Press in a response to e-mailed questions.

However, other countries ranging from the United States to Italy dismissed Chavez's proposal as the wrong approach. And Gadhafi's opponents have shown no openness to talks as long as he remains in power.

"You don't need an international commission to tell Colonel Gadhafi what he needs to do for the good of his country and the good of his people," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington. "He should step aside, and for the good of his people, he should stop attacking them."

Chavez has called Gadhafi a friend, and the two share some socialist political ideas as well as their opposition to Washington. Chavez has accused the United States of exaggerating events in Libya to "justify an invasion," and has said he sees parallels between the situation faced by Gadhafi and a 2002 coup that he survived in Venezuela.

Speaking on television Thursday night, Chavez said he had spoken with Gadhafi and that the Libyan leader isn't considering going into exile as some have speculated.

"Don't believe that, that Gadhafi is going into exile in Venezuela or Nicaragua. No way. If the Yankees and their allies invade Libya, I'm sure that Gadhafi would die standing up," Chavez said. "But I warn the world about the consequences of a war."

The price of a barrel of oil, he said, could reach as much as $200 "if the United States turns Libya into a scene of international war."

Izarra has said Chavez spoke with Gadhafi earlier this week about creating a bloc of countries to help mediate.

The foreign ministers of several Latin American and Caribbean nations allied with Venezuela planned to discuss Chavez's proposal at a Friday meeting of the Bolivarian Alternative bloc, or ALBA, in Caracas, Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said.

"Let's talk about peace for Libya. Negotiated ways out," Izarra said on Twitter.

Crowley said any effort to resolve the Libya crisis peacefully deserves consideration. But if Gadhafi isn't "responding to the many calls across the international community to step down, it is uncertain to me what an international commission is going to accomplish," he said.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that the proposal as he understands it would leave Gadhafi in place, and as a result is unacceptable.

The head of the Cairo-based Arab League _ also contacted about Chavez's proposal _ seemed cool to the idea. League spokesman Hisham Youssef said the idea was still not clearly drawn out and added that any mediation must "take into consideration the aspirations of the Libyan people" _ an apparent reference to those who have joined the uprising against Gadhafi.

Outside the Libyan Embassy in Caracas, meanwhile, a group of protesters condemned the Libyan government's attacks on civilian protesters and shouted anti-Gadhafi chants such as: "Get out dictator, murderer of your people!"

Diego Arria, a prominent Chavez opponent and former Venezuelan U.N. ambassador, led the group of about 30 protesters and called Chavez's mediation proposal "totally absurd."

In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa echoed Chavez's stance, saying he would never support any military intervention in Libya.

Chavez has built a close relationship with Gadhafi during his 12 years in office. In 2009, Chavez attended anniversary celebrations in Libya marking Gadhafi's 40 years in power, and later that year Gadhafi pitched his Bedouin tent on Venezuela's Margarita Island during his first visit to Latin America.

Chavez has suggested a "goodwill commission" should be sent to Libya to try to ease the conflict. But how such a delegation might function in the absence of dialogue between Gadhafi and his opponents is unclear. An opposition spokesman in Libya, Mustafa Gheriani, ruled out any negotiations with Gadhafi, saying "his hands are tainted with blood."

___

Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper in Washington, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Fabiola Sanchez and Christopher Toothaker in Caracas, and Gonzalo Solano in Quito, Ecuador, contributed to this report.