PARIS -- France's foreign minister said Tuesday Paris has had contact with emissaries from Moammar Gadhafi who say the embattled Libyan strongman is "prepared to leave" power.
It was not immediately clear whether such an offer is credible or amounts to a potential breakthrough in the Libyan crisis. But Gadhafi has refused to leave or give up power.
Alain Juppe said that while the contacts do not constitute proper negotiations, "everyone [involved in Libya[']s civil war] has contacts with everyone else. The Libyan regime sends its messengers all over, to Turkey, to New York, to Paris.
"We receive emissaries who are saying, 'Gadhafi is prepared to leave. Let's discuss it,"' Juppe said, without identifying the envoys.
The U.S. State Department said that Washington, too, is getting visitors.
"We have a lot of folks claiming to be representatives of Gadhafi one way or the other reaching out to lots of other folks in the West," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "But the messages are contradictory, and we remain to [hear] a clear-cut message -- more importantly, the TNC [Transitional National Council representing the rebels] remains to have a clear-cut message -- that Gadhafi is prepared to understand that it's time for him to go," she said.
French officials and their allies have insisted that Gadhafi's giving up power is key to ending the hostilities, which began in mid-March, and Juppe said more and more countries agree on that point.
"There is a consensus on how to end the crisis, which is that Gadhafi has to leave power," Juppe said. "That (consensus) was absolutely not a given two or three months ago.
"The question is no longer whether Gadhafi is going to leave power, but when and how," he said.
France was instrumental in launching the NATO-led operation of airstrikes against Gadhafi's forces, in a U.N.-mandated mission to protect civilians resisting his four-decade regime.