Did a former State Department official tell Qaddafi how to manipulate the US?
That's the implication of documents found by Al Jazeera in Tripoli. The documents also suggest that US Rep. Dennis Kucinich tried to help provide legal assistance to the Libyan regime.
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According to minutes, written in Arabic, that Al Jazeera found this week in the Tripoli compound, Welch met with senior Qaddafi officials Abubakr Alzleitny and Mohammed Ahmed Ismail on Aug. 2, 2011, in Cairo's Four Seasons hotel, not far from the US embassy where he once served as ambassador. He was there to advise them on how the Qaddafi regime could survive.Skip to next paragraph
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According to the minutes, Welch pointed out what he saw as disagreements within the Obama administration that Libya might be able to exploit, made suggestions about which Libyan diplomats would be best at swaying the Obama administration, and praised Qaddafi spokesman Moussa Ibrahim for making points that "embarrass" the United States.
One Libyan sent to the US as an emissary was Mustafa al-Zaidi, a key Qaddafi aide who served in the Libyan embassy in Germany in the 1980s, when Qaddafi was blamed for a terrorist attack on a bar popular with US soldiers, and was allegedly present at the Abu Salim prison massacre in 1996, in which over 1,000 people were murdered. Welch told the Libyans that sending Mr. Zaidi was a mistake, and recommended a more acceptable diplomat for future contacts.
Welch also suggested that "confidence building measures" be made by the Libyans to improve their standing with the US government, and mentioned reports that shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missiles had gone missing form Qaddafi's arsenal. He recommended they disclose how many were missing and say "how Libya is concerned about the missiles falling into the hands of extremist or religious organizations," according to the document. He also recommended that "any information related to Al Qaeda or other terrorist fanatic organizations should be found and given to the American side via the intelligence agencies of either Israel, Egypt, Morroco, or Jordan."
If true, this amounts to giving advice to a de facto adversary on how best to sway US government opinion.
The Qaddafi regime has repeatedly sought to paint Libya's rebels as the result of an alliance between Al Qaeda and NATO. Before the start of the uprising in February, Libya was an intelligence partner of the US on Islamist militants. The US transferred alleged militants in its custody to Libya and was sometimes given access to detainees in Libyan custody.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday that "this was a private trip" and that Welch was acting as a private citizen. Welch did not respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera.
The meeting occurred weeks before Tripoli fell, while the Obama administration and Libya's own rebels were insisting that the only possible end to the conflict would include Qaddafi, wanted on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court, stepping down.