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ISTANBUL, July 15 (Reuters) - An international Libya contact group meeting will recognise the Benghazi-based opposition council as the representative of the Libyan people, leaving Muammar Gaddafi no option but to step down, Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Friday.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the Istanbul meeting, Frattini said the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy to Libya, Abdul Elah Al-Khatib, would be authorised to present terms for Gaddafi to leave power, in a political package that will include a ceasefire to halt fighting in the civil war.
“Today, we will see the final document where the contact group recognises TNC as the interlocutor representing Libyan people. So (there is) no other option but for Gaddafi to leave,” Frattini said. The TNC refers to the rebel Transitional National Council.
The group, made up of more than 30 governments and international and regional organisations, had decided that communications with the Gaddafi government in Tripoli should be channelled through the U.N. envoy, Frattini said.
The fourth meeting of the Libya contact group, established in London in March, comes after reports suggesting Gaddafi might be ready to give up his 41-year rule if he could get a deal.
Frattini said a negotiating team led by Khatib would decide whether Gaddafi would be allowed to stay in Libya or leave the country.
“They will decide not if Gaddafi leaves power, but how he leaves power and when,” Frattini said. “This is a matter of how and when, not if.”
“That said, it is an open point whether to accept after Gaddafi’s departure (that) he stays in the country, or he leaves the country,” the Italian minister said, adding it was up to Khatib and his staff to decide.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton were among more than a dozen foreign ministers attending the one-day meeting in Istanbul, along with heads of NATO, the Arab League and other regional organisations. (Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore)