The Obama administration has begun seeking a country, most likely in Africa, that might be willing to provide shelter to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi if he were forced out of Libya, even as a new wave of intelligence reports suggest that no rebel leader has emerged as a credible successor to the Libyan dictator.
The intense search for a country to accept Colonel Qaddafi has been conducted quietly by the United States and its allies, even though the Libyan leader has shown defiance in recent days, declaring that he has no intention of yielding to demands that he leave his country, and intensifying his bombardment of the rebel city of Misurata.
The effort is complicated by the likelihood that he would be indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland in 1988, and atrocities inside Libya.
One possibility, according to three administration officials, is to find a country that is not a signatory to the treaty that requires countries to turn over anyone under indictment for trial by the court, perhaps giving Colonel Qaddafi an incentive to abandon his stronghold in Tripoli.
The move by the United States to find a haven for Colonel Qaddafi may help explain how the White House is trying to enforce President Obama’s declaration that the Libyan leader must leave the country but without violating Mr. Obama’s refusal to put troops on the ground.
The United Nations Security Council has authorized military strikes to protect the Libyan population, but not to oust the leadership. But Mr. Obama and the leaders of Britain and France, among others, have declared that to be their goals, apart from the military campaign.
“We learned some lessons from Iraq, and one of the biggest is that Libyans have to be responsible for regime change, not us,” one senior administration official said on Saturday. “What we’re simply trying to do is find some peaceful way to organize an exit, if the opportunity arises.”
About half of the countries in Africa have not signed or ratified the Rome Statute, which requires nations to abide by commands from the international court. (The United States has also not ratified the statute, because of concerns about the potential indictment of its soldiers or intelligence agents.) Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, suggested late last month that several African countries could offer Colonel Qaddafi a haven, but he did not identify them.
here is to friendship in Africa