Is Gadhafi preparing to leave the country? We ask Clinton and Lavrov.

Jul 14, 2011 2:42pm

ABC News' Kirit Radia (@kiritradia_abc) reports:

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé claimed this week that emissaries from Moammar Gadhafi have said the longtime Libyan strongman wants to find a way out of the country after months of NATO and rebel attacks, suggesting a deal could be reached soon. The Washington Post and Associated Press also reported this week that Gadhafi’s troops are running out of fuel, supplies, and money to continue fighting.

So is Gadhafi on the ropes and could there soon be a negotiated end to the conflict? This week I put the question to two people who would know best: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Neither Clinton nor Lavrov were willing to reveal much, but Clinton seemed to downplay Juppé’s suggestion that a negotiated settlement was imminent.

“We are still getting contradictory signals from Colonel Gadhafi's camp,” Clinton said.

Reports have been swirling for months about people who claim to speak for Gadhafi reaching out to various countries to see how he and his family could leave the country. When Clinton attended a meeting of the so-called Libya Contact Group in Abu Dhabi last month, she confirmed that outreach and said they would seek to make sense of it before they met again this Saturday in Istanbul.

“There have been numerous and continuing discussions by people close to Gadhafi. And we are aware that those discussions include, among other matters, the potential for a transition. There is not any clear way forward yet, but we will be focusing between now and the next Contact Group in Istanbul in July on making sure that all of those contacts are understood and evaluated because they occur with many different interlocutors,” she told reporters at the time.

Clinton seemed to say not much progress had been made since then, but she was optimistic about the prospects.

“Although neither of us can predict to you the exact day or hour that Gadhafi will leave power, we do understand and agree that his days are numbered,” she said.

Russia recently sent an envoy to Tripoli to take the temperature of the Gadhafi regime and see if a negotiated solution could be agreed upon.This week, Lavrov was also optimistic but suggested the diplomacy may not be at an endgame just yet.

“We have different channels, official and not very official channels, to work through to create conditions for this process,” Lavrov said through an interpreter.

“I think that the whole set of the measures being taken by NATO members and Russia and the region countries as well, and also African Union, whose initiatives we support, will lead to an agreement to reach a cease-fire and to start negotiations. There is no other way to solve this issue, as any other issue in the modern world,” he added.

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