Exclusive: Gadhafi, Allies May Be Seeking Way Out, Clinton tells ABC News

In WN interview, Clinton downplays concerns about coalition and power transfer.

March 22, 2011, 4:26 PM

March 22, 2011— -- People close to Libya's embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi are reaching out to allies around the world exploring their "options," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told ABC News' Diane Sawyer today, and the U.S. government has gotten unconfirmed reports that at least one of Gadhafi's sons has been killed.

"We've heard about other people close to him reaching out to people that they know around the world -- Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North America, beyond -- saying what do we do? How do we get out of this? What happens next?" Clinton said in an exclusive interview. "I'm not aware that he personally has reached out, but I do know that people allegedly on his behalf have been reaching out."

"Some of it is theater. Some of it is, you know, kind of, shall we say game playing, to try to do one message to one group, another message to somebody else," she added. "A lot of it is just the way he behaves. It's somewhat unpredictable. But some of it, we think, is exploring. You know, what are my options, where could I go, what could I do. And we would encourage that."

Clinton said she's also heard reports that one of Gadhafi's sons may have been killed in the air strikes. But she added that the "evidence is not sufficient" to confirm.

As coalition airstrikes attacked Gadhafi's military assets for the fourth day in a row, Clinton expressed optimism about an early handover, saying the United States would transfer leadership to another country within days. She downplayed concerns about a fracture in the coalition.

"It will be days. Whether it's by Saturday or not depends on the evaluation made by our military commanders along with our allies and partners," she said.

Watch World News tonight for more of Diane Sawyer's interview with Hillary Clinton.

U.S. partners like Italy want NATO to take charge but some of its members, like Russia and Turkey, have expressed skepticism about the goal of the U.N.-backed air strikes and the potential of civilian casualties.

Clinton said details on who will assume leadership are still being worked out but that NATO will play a front role.

"NATO will be definitely involved because we do have a lot of NATO members who are committed to this process. And, you know, they want to see command and control that is organized," she told Sawyer. "But I'm very relaxed about it... I think it is proceeding. It's moving forward in the right direction and we will have what we need in the next few days."

Hillary Clinton: Mission's Goal is Not to Remove Gadhafi

Clinton reiterated President Obama's point that the goal of the mission is not to oust Gadhafi but to prevent civilian casualties.

But she would not say whether the United States is confident that Gadhafi will be removed from power.

"I don't want to make any predictions because we are taking this one step at a time. I don't want to jump beyond where we are right now," she said. "We are implementing the U.N. Security Council resolution, we are establishing the no-fly zone, which everybody was calling for, from the United States Senate to the Arab League."

"Now obviously, if we want to see a stable, peaceful, hopefully someday democratic Libya, it is highly unlikely that can be accomplished if he stays in power as he is."

Clinton pushed back against reports that she persuaded the president to authorize U.S. involvement in the attacks, and that she was the voice that turned around the opponents.

"That is absolutely, I think part of a storyline that needs to be corrected... I think it was a very thoughtful process," she said. "I'm not going to characterize anyone because it was a decision that was made, and the decision speaks for itself."

On a personal note, Clinton -- who said last week she would not accept a role in a possible second Obama administration -- told Sawyer that she would stay until the beginning of the next term, at least.

"I will stay until the beginning of the next term, because I know it takes a while for people to get appointed and confirmed," she said. "I mean, obviously, there needs to be a seamless transition with whomever President Obama decides to appoint after he is reelected, which I am confident he will be."

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