ABC's Kirit Radia reports:
The Obama administration took pains today to distance itself from a trip to Tripoli by former Congressman Curt Weldon, who announced in a New York Times op-ed this morning that he was there to convince Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to step down.
“This is, as we understand it, a personal visit, and he's in no way acting on behalf of the United States government,” spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
Toner said that Weldon had consulted with the State Department before his trip, but made clear the administration doesn’t find his trip particularly helpful.
“I'm aware of the plan that he put forward. He does not represent the U.S. government. He's not carrying any plan from the U.S. government, so that in and of itself is telling,” he said.
In his op-ed, Weldon said he would seek a meeting with Col. Gadhafi in order to “persuade him to step aside.”
Weldon described a three point plan to end the conflict, including face-to –face discussions with Gadhafi to “persuade him to leave, as my delegation hopes to do.”
“I’ve met him enough times to know that it will be very hard to simply bomb him into submission,” Weldon wrote.
The other elements of his plan call for a UN-monitored cease-fire with Gadhafi’s forces withdrawing from cities and rebel promises not to advance further.
“Then we must identify and engage with those leaders who, if not perfect, are pragmatic and reform-minded and thus best positioned to lead the country,” Weldon said, pointing to Gadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam and calling for a meeting between the Libyan Prime Minister and the head of the opposition’s Transitional National Council.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was not asked about Rep Weldon’s visit, described similar demands during a press conference with her Italian counterpart.
Clinton reiterated a call for Gadhafi to step down and said there must be a ceasefire that includes government forces withdrawing from the cities.
- Kirit Radia