By Larry Mendte
TRIPOLI, LIBYA (WPIX) April 5, 2011 — Diplomatic efforts to end the bloody stalemate in Libya have taken a surprise turn with the involvement of former U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, who led delegations to the country in 2004.
Weldon, a 10-term congressman from Pennsylvania who served as vice-chair of the House Armed Services Committee, was invited to Tripoli by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in the hopes he can broker a deal with international leaders, including the Obama administration. WPIX-TV’s Larry Mendte and photographer John Frasse accompanied Weldon on the trip.
Weldon arrived with a proposal of simultaneous actions he hopes will lead to stabilization in Libya. They include a ceasefire agreement, Qaddafi stepping aside, the formation of an interim government led by both sides, and monitored elections.
The meetings with Weldon come a day after Qaddafi dispatched an envoy to meet with European leaders in the hopes of finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis, a civil war that has divided Libya into a rebel-held east and a western region controlled by Qaddafi loyalists. The U.N. authorized a no-fly zone and airstrikes on Qaddafi’s forces as they were about to pounce on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi last month.
Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told reporters Monday that Libya was ready for a “political solution” with world powers. “We could have any political system, any changes: constitution, election, anything. But the leader has to lead this forward,” he told reporters when asked about the content of negotiations with other countries.
International leaders have been in no mood to negotiate. On Monday, Italy joined France and Qatar in formally recognizing rebel forces as the legitimate government of Libya.
Additionally, rebel leaders rejected a rumored plan that would involve Qaddafi handing power to his son Seif Islam Qaddafi, who would then implement reforms. “Qaddafi and his sons have to leave before any diplomatic negotiations can take place,” rebel spokesman Shamseddin Abdulmelah in Benghazi was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.
The Los Angeles Times and Reuters contributed to this report
Award-winning reporter Larry Mendte was invited by Weldon as the sole journalist to witness the historic negotiations in Libya and document the trip. Mendte will be filing the first of a series of reports from Tripoli on PIX11 News at Ten (New York) tonight (April 5th.) Mendte’s reports can also be seen at www.pix11.com