By Mark Friedman
CARACAS – The Arab League said it is weighing an offer by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez to mediate in Libya’s civil war, as his ally Muammar Gaddafi struggles to put down rebels and regain control of the country. In so doing, they had temporarily ruled out supporting a “no fly zone” over the country, giving advantage to Gaddafi and the remainder of his loyalist air force.
Although the Venezuelan foreign ministry said Chavez and Gaddafi had spoken and that Libya had accepted the use of a commission to find a solution to the crisis, today Gaddafi’s son, Said al-Islam el-Gaddafi, rejected the offer coming from Chavez to mediate a peaceful solution to the ongoing uprising.
“I am not aware of the Venezuelan proposal and don’t think there is a possibility of eventual international mediation,” said Gaddafi’s son in an interview with Britain’s Sky News. “I don’t know anything about this. It’s like if I was out to sponsor an agreement in the Amazons.”
“The Venezuelans have affirmed that they are our friends and respect and like us, but they are so far away and they have no idea.
Libya is in the Middle East and in North Africa and Venezuela is in Latin America. Thank you, we are grateful to them. They are our friends. It’s a nice gesture but we can resolve our own problems. There is no need for foreign intervention.”
Venezuela’s Minister of Communications Andrés Izarra had earlier said by Twitter that “the Libyan Government is studying the proposal, just as the Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa has affirmed.”
Hisham Yusef, a spokesperson for the Arab League said “we are maintaining in consultation and so far no decision has been taken regarding the issue.”
President Chavez made the proposal last Monday “to avoid the spilling of more blood. An invasion of Libya would be a catastrophe.” Venezuela also said it hoped Brazilian ex-President Lula could lead the Libya mediation. Peru and Ecuador chimed in, saying they would back a Chavez proposal for Libya.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley, while not ruling out talks, said that if Gaddafi is “not responding to the many calls across the international community for him to step down, it’s uncertain to me what an international commission is going to accomplish.”
The US has deployed two US Navy ships for possible humanitarian operations and Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of US Naval Operations, has said that two aircraft carriers are now in the region and a third is departing from Norfolk, Virginia.
Foreign Ministers from Italy and France have rejected Chavez’s proposal signaling that any mediation that allows Gaddafi to stay in power is “not welcome. “
More importantly, Libyan opposition leaders also rejected the mediation offer. “We do not accept any negotiations with Col Gaddafi,” Libyan opposition spokesman Mustafa Gheriani said, according to the Associated Press. “His hands are tainted with blood and we will not talk to him. He knows the way to the airport and he can leave.”