By Adrian Croft
LONDON (Reuters) - Libya's rebel National Council promised to build a free, democratic nation if it prevailed, as more than 40 governments and international bodies gathered in London on Tuesday to plan for statehood beyond Muammar Gaddafi.
With Gaddafi loyalists pushing back against rebels, Italy has put forward a proposal for a political deal to end Libya's crisis, including a quick ceasefire, exile for Gaddafi and dialogue between rebels and tribal leaders.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague also implied exile might be a way to take Gaddafi out of the picture and settle the six-week-old uprising against his four-decade rule.
"We want him to leave power and that's what we've consistently said to the Libyan regime. We are not in control, of course, of where he might go," Hague told the BBC, adding he believed Gaddafi should face the International Criminal Court.
Mahmoud Jebril, the leader of the rebel interim National Council, was in London for meetings with British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The council, based in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, held out the prospect of a "modern, free and united state" if Gaddafi could be ousted.
An eight-point statement said the oil-producing north African nation's economy would be used for the benefit of all Libyans. It also said it would draft a national constitution allowing the formation of political parties and trades unions.
Its commitments included guaranteeing "every Libyan citizen, of statutory age, the right to vote in free and fair parliamentary elections and presidential elections, as well as the right to run for office."
Ahmed Khalifa, a spokesman for the rebel movement, told a news conference in Benghazi he expected the London conference to create more pressure for Gaddafi to leave.
"The (rebel) national council rejects any negotiations with Gaddafi or his family ... No one at this (London) conference is defending Gaddafi, he has lost his legitimacy," he said.
Britain and France led the push for a muscular intervention in the Libyan conflict and coalition air strikes have helped rebels in the east of the country to advance; but questions remain about the end game in Libya.
Tuesday's meeting, starting at 1300 GMT and due to end with a news conference at 1630 GMT, is expected to set up a high-level steering group, including Arab states, to provide political guidance for the international response to Libya.
Attendees include U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, NATO leader Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, as well as 40 foreign ministers.
The meeting will discuss stepping up humanitarian aid to war-torn areas and call for a political process to enable Libyans to choose their own future, British officials said.
U.S. officials gave a positive assessment of rebel advances on the battlefield.
"They've clearly recovered a lot of momentum, both militarily and politically. They've covered a lot of ground," one senior U.S. administration official said.
The U.S. official said Clinton and Jebril may discuss further moves to release $33 billion in frozen Libyan assets to the opposition, although he gave no further details.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the Obama administration had not ruled out arming the rebels.
Referring to reports that members of Gaddafi's inner circle are seeking contact with the West, she said: "We will be more persuaded by actions rather than prospects or feelers."
U.S. President Barack Obama vowed on Monday to work with allies to hasten the day when Gaddafi leaves power but said he would not use force to remove him. Hague also said Britain was not pursuing regime change.
However, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said Britain and France were demanding Gaddafi's departure.
Asked what would be "Mission Accomplished", Longuet told France Inter radio: "When the Libyan people are able to express themselves without being repressed."
(Additional reporting by Keith Weir, Tim Castle, Stefano Ambrogi, William Maclean, Simon Cameron-Moore, Andrew Quinn, David Brunnstrom; Tracy Rucinski in Madrid; Silvia Aloisi in Rome; Yann Le Guernigou, Emmanuel Jarry, Brian Love, John Irish in Paris, Editing by Ralph Boulton)