A meeting in Cairo between former officials of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime and an envoy dispatched by Libya’s interim leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil has sparked widespread anger and demands for an explanation.
“Abdul Jalil must explain the motives that prompted him to take this initiative without consulting the council,” Intissar Al-Akili, a member of the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC), told AFP.
She has even threatened to resign over the issue.
The May 27 meeting was part of a “national reconciliation” initiative headed by religious leader Ali Sallabi, who claims to be acting on Abdul Jalil’s orders, and Ahmed Kadhaf Eddam, who is the former dictator’s cousin and an ex-official.
Sallabi told AFP that he was tasked by Abdul Jalil to “hold talks with Libyans of the former regime to see how to... alleviate the suffering and bring together Libyans in a state of justice, liberty, equality and law.”
He added that the discussions centred on national reconciliation, reactivating the judiciary, and the right of the relatives of ex-regime supporters abroad to access consular services and participate in upcoming elections.
Thousands of supporters of the former regime fled Libya during and after the regime’s fall, with the majority resettling in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Morocco.
News of the Cairo meeting upset several Libyan personalities including Akili, who slammed the move as “an insult to the martyrs and the aims of the February 17 revolution” which led to Qaddafi’s ouster and killing in 2011.
“We will vigorously oppose these negotiations and if they are approved by the National Transitional Council, I will immediately present my resignation,” she told AFP.
She told local television the NTC had held an extraordinary meeting on the issue.
The NTC has distanced itself from the initiative, issuing a statement this week saying it had not commissioned negotiations and that there would be no negotiation with symbols of the former regime.
“There is no negotiation or accommodation possible with such figures. These people have to return to Libya to be tried,” said NTC Vice Chairman Aknan Salem in televised remarks.
“Sallabi represents only himself,” he added.
Meanwhile, 200 Libyan personalities, including journalists and activists, issued a joint statement expressing their “extreme concern.”
Reconciliation, they said, should not include the members of the former regime who took part in the Cairo meeting, because they are at the “forefront” of those accused of murder, corruption and terrorism under Qaddafi.
NTC spokesman Mohammed al-Harizi said that Sallabi’s mission aimed only to urge Libyan families who had taken shelter in Egypt to come home and convey to elements wanted by the authorities that they will face a fair trial.
NTC members have publicly accused Harizi of watering down this week’s statement.
Several sources said the initiative was begun by Kadhaf Eddam, an adviser and cousin to Qaddafi who was also in charge of Libya-Egypt ties.
He resigned several days after the start of the 2011 revolt but made no major moves in favor of the uprising. Some former rebels have questioned his defection and accuse him of having enlisted pro-Qaddafi fighters.
Ali Lahwal, ex-coordinator of Libyan tribes and a representative of Qaddafi’s tribe the Kadhafa, was another former regime official present at the Cairo meeting.