Peter Hoskin

An honest plea? Or a cynical gambit?

I was planning on collating today’s sunny newspaper covers for Coffee House — but Tim Montgomerie has beaten me to it. So let’s, instead, turn our attention away from the Royal Wedding, and on to Libya. A striking thing has happened there this morning: Gaddafi has called for a ceasefire, and for negotiations between his regime and NATO. Although the murderous leader’s television address was shot through with the usual defiant rhetoric — “No one can force me to leave my country and no one can tell me not to fight for my country,” he bellowed — it also included some concessionary passages. “Let us negotiate,” was one of them. “We cannot fight each other,” was another.

Of course, we should treat this intervention with wholesale quantities of salt. Gaddafi has announced ceasefires before, and yet the slaughter has continued. Fresh stories are emerging all the time about the atrocity exhibition he has curated. And yet this latest plea on his part may not be entirely meaningless. The question it inspires is: why now? Is his resolve, and his military capacity, crumbling in the face of the world’s attention? Or is he just scrambling for more time? Western leaders will no doubt suspect the latter, but they might also welcome a chance to alter the course of this stuttering conflict. The next few days will be instructive. 

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