Tripoli’s Bishop: ‘Nato Bombs Not The Answer’

The Pope’s senior representative in Libya has issued a stark warning to Western governments that without negotiation the war in the country will reach a bloody stalemate.

Bishop Giovanni Martinelli told Sky News that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi will not leave the country and will not stop the fighting while his army is being bombed.

“He will not leave,” said the bishop, who was born in Libya and knows the Colonel and how he thinks.

“Maybe he will leave the power but with certain conditions; with dignity and desire to be with his people. He will stay, I think so. He doesn’t want to leave the country. It is possible to find a solution but not with force.”

The bishop has been critical of the bombing campaign because he says it is inaccurate and with the Libyan military still largely intact Col Gaddafi will become more intransigent.

“This is a crisis of generations and the rebellion is understandable. But violence is not the way forward,” he added.

“I understand the feelings of the people in the east but they cannot win. They are not enough and not strong enough to defeat this army.”

In a rare interview in his St Francis church in the centre of Tripoli he said he was appalled at what was happening in the cities if Misratah and Zawiya and acknowledged that Sky News’s reporting from Zawiya, in particular, was accurate.

“Now in Misratah they have no water, no electricity and no food. The situation is very dangerous,” he said.

Analysts believe the bishop is now a key player in diplomatic negotiations with the Gaddafi government.

The Vatican has distanced itself from the Nato-led military strategy and is supporting Italian efforts to negotiate a deal, including potential safe passage for Gaddafi.

“The psychological position of the leader is as a Libyan and a Bedouin and war is not a way to convince him to leave,” warned Bishop Martinelli.

( / 03.04.2011)

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