BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade appealed to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Thursday to step down, and offered to help ease his former ally’s exit from power.
“It is in your own interest and the interest of all the Libyan people that you leave power in Libya and never dream of coming back to power,” Wade said during a visit to the rebel-held eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
“I can be one of those who help you pull out of political life and the sooner you leave the better, to save the lives of Libyans,” Wade said.
It was his first visit to the rebels’ stronghold since he recognised their National Transitional Council as Libya’s “legitimate opposition” in May and said the council should work towards a free and democratic Libya.
Wade was speaking at a news conference alongside Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the council’s chairman and figurehead of the revolt against Gaddafi.
Asked later to clarify if Wade meant his government would offer Gaddafi asylum, Senegalese Foreign Minister Madicke Niang told reporters:
“We are demanding that Gaddafi leave power as soon as time allows it... When we are sure that this is his will, we can negotiate on where Gaddafi can stay after he leaves power.”
Gaddafi has vowed to stay put in Libya and fight on despite renewed heavy NATO bombardment of military sites and his Bab al-Aziziya compound in the capital Tripoli.
Wade sees himself as one of Africa’s elder statesmen and has long sought to mediate in the continent’s crises, including Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mauritania and Sudan.