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Gadhafi wanted to go peacefully, not by force

Moammar Gadhafi with President Obama

NEW YORK – A former Republican congressman provided details of his efforts in 2011 to negotiate with Moammar Gadhafi an offer to step down as president of Libya in an effort to prevent the Libyan war.

“There was no doubt Gadhafi wanted to abdicate,” said Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania in a WND interview.

Weldon, who served as vice-chairman of the Armed Services Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee, told of his private trip to Tripoli in April 2011.

Curt Weldon

“Was Gadhafi prepared to leave office?” Weldon asked rhetorically. “Absolutely, unequivocally, without any doubt in my mind, Gadhafi was ready to leave office. There were no other conditions except he wanted to leave Libya with what he called ‘dignity.'”

Instead of negotiating Gadhafi’s removal, however, the U.S. decided to arm al-Qaida-affiliated Libyan militia in a NATO-backed “rebellion” to oust Gadhafi by military force. Some critics of Obama’s policy have charged the administration “switched sides in the war on terror,” as WND reported.

Weldon’s accounts further confirm a WND report last month detailing the efforts of retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Chuck Kubic to negotiate Gadhafi’s abdication with USAFRICOM. Also, Jeffrey Scott Shapiro and Kelly Riddell of the Washington Times reported secret Pentagon tapes show top Pentagon officials were so distrustful of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s march to war with Libya in early 2011 that they opened their own diplomatic back-channel with Gadhafi’s son Saif Gadhafi to negotiate conditions under which Gadhafi would agree to step down voluntarily and avoid war.

“No public official had met with Gadhafi more than I had,” Weldon said.

He noted that during the presidency of George W. Bush, he led two bipartisan delegations to Libya to meet with Gadhafi after the leader indicated his willingness to drop his nuclear program and get rid of all weapons of mass destruction as a result of meetings with Saif, including a private dinner in London in December 2003.

Weldon said that in April 2011, Gadhafi’s son Saadi Gadhafi wrote him a letter inviting him to come back to Libya.

Bashir Saleh, Gadhafi’s chief of staff, then called Weldon and said, “We really want you here because Gadhafi will listen to you, he trusts you and he know your intent in coming here will be to avoid a war,’ indicating that if I came over to Libya, Gadhafi would step down.”

Weldon told WND he sent Bashir Saleh a draft of a letter and Bashir Saleh sent it back him, signed, with no changes, inviting Weldon to come to Libya.

“So, now I had a letter of invitation from Gadhafi’s son Saadi and from Gadhafi’s chief of staff Bashir Saleh, with both letters inviting me to come to Libya,” Weldon continued.

He said he too with him Brian Ettinger, a Houston attorney who was formerly legislative director for then-Sen. Joe Biden’s staff, who Weldon described as “talking with Biden on a regular basis,” and Steve Payne, a Houston businessman and friend of George W. Bush who served in the early years of George W. Bush’s administration as senior presidential advance representative, traveling frequently with the president. Ron Coopersmith, son of Esther Coopersmith, who Weldon described as “Hillary Clinton’s best friend,” had been invited by Weldon to go on the Libya trip in 2011 but was unable to do so for personal reasons.

On April 5, 2011, Weldon authored an op-ed piece in the New York Times with the headline “Times Up, Gadhafi” that was published as Weldon arrived in Libya on what he has repeatedly described as a “private mission.”

Weldon wrote: “In 2004 I traveled to Libya as the head of a bipartisan Congressional delegation to express support for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s decision to give up his country’s nuclear weapons program,” the op-ed piece began. “We met with Colonel Qaddafi, high-level officials and ordinary people, and I even addressed the annual meeting of Libyan legislators.”

“Neither the White House nor I wanted to lend support to Colonel Qaddafi himself; our goal was to open a new era of engagement between the United States government and American business with the Libyan people themselves,” Weldon continued in the op-ed.

“Seven years later I am back in Libya, this time on a much different mission, as the leader of a small private delegation, at the invitation of Colonel Qaddafi’s chief of staff and with the knowledge of the Obama administration and members of Congress from both parties,” Weldon stressed in the op-ed. “Our purpose is to meet with Colonel Qaddafi today and persuade him to step aside.”

Weldon told WND that shortly after he and the delegation arrived in Tripoli in 2011, he had a meeting with Saadi.

“Saadi told me that his father was willing to step down, just like I wrote in New York Times editorial,” Weldon said. “I told Saadi that I was in Tripoli to see if we could avoid a war because I didn’t want to see bloodshed that killed American lives, and I also didn’t want to see Libyans killed.”

Although Weldon failed to obtain a personal meeting with Gadhafi on his April 2011 trip, he said he delivered a sealed letter from Gadhafi that was addressed to Hillary Clinton. Weldon explained that immediately upon leaving Libya, he hand-delivered Gadhafi’s letter to the U.S. ambassador in Tunisia, without opening or reading it.

Citing a “senior administration official,” CNN reported April 6, 2011, that in the letter, Gadhafi asked President Obama to end the NATO bombing of Libya but there was “nothing new” in it. The thrust of the letter, the official said, according to CNN, was “an appeal to end the alliance’s air operations,” but it contained “no offers to negotiate or step down.”

WND asked Weldon his response to the CNN report.

“Then the Obama administration should make the letter public, if that’s all it said,” the former congressman replied.

“All Gadhafi wanted was a way to leave Libya with dignity,” Weldon repeated, emphasizing he had no doubt the leader was serious about abdicating or else Weldon would not have traveled to Libya in April 2011.

“Today the Libyan people are being slaughtered by these militia gangs who roam free in the towns and have no allegiance to any Libyan government,” Weldon said.