ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey will seek support for a "road map" to help end the Libyan crisis when countries backing NATO's military mission gather in Istanbul to ratchet up the pressure on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Turkey's foreign ministry said Thursday.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and some 40 other members of the so-called Contact Group on Libya will hold their fourth meeting on Friday to support a post-Gadhafi era, boost support to the Libyan main opposition group and plot steps for a political transition.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said Thursday nations participating in the fourth Contact Group meeting were expected to discuss a Turkish proposal to end the Libyan crisis despite Gadhafi's refusal to stand down, and to set the stage for a democratic transition. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with the ministry's rule, would not provide details of what Turkey was bringing to the table.
In April, Turkey proposed a peace plan for Libya calling for an immediate cease-fire, the protection of civilians and a democratic transition in the country.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selcuk Unal said he couldn't give details of the plan, but said it was built on the previous proposal.
"It's an evolving paper," he said.
NATO has been bombing Gadhafi's forces and military sites to enforce a U.N. resolution to protect civilians. Still, the civil war has fallen into a virtual stalemate, with neither side able to make significant progress in recent weeks.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Thursday dismissed Libyan claims that the alliance's air strikes campaign has killed more than 1,100 people, saying the bloc has "no confirmed information" about possible civilian casualties.
Clinton warned Gadhafi late Wednesday that his days in power are numbered and that the international community will be stepping up pressure on him to leave.
Libyan rebels have enlarged the area under their control in the west and inched closer to a key supply route to the capital Tripoli.
U.S. officials say pressure appears to be building against Gadhafi's regime after months of apparent stalemate. They point at three key indicators: dwindling fuel supplies, a cash crisis and reports of low morale among regime troops. Gadhafi is also facing a cash crisis after Turkey cut off his access, on July 4, to hundreds of millions in Libyan funds held in a Turkish-Libyan bank, they say.
The assessment comes as French authorities describe overtures from Libyan emissaries reportedly seeking sanctuary for the Libyan leader, who has survived sustained bombing by NATO war planes and U.S. armed drones since mid-March. Clinton said Gadhafi associates were sending mixed messages about whether he would be willing to step down.
"Gadhafi is a Libyan citizen, Tripoli is his home, talk of him leaving is silly," said Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi in Tripoli on Thursday in response to a question about French reports that Gadhafi might be ready to step down. "Gadhafi's stay in Libya is eternal and no one can discuss it."
Many of the Contact Group nations have formalized ties with Libya's opposition Transitional National Council and provide it with financial assistance. At a meeting in the United Arab Emirates last month, the international contact group pledged more than $1.3 billion to help support the council.
Italy said Wednesday a the shift among some African leaders to discuss a Libya without Gadhafi was a significant development that should help spur a political resolution to the conflict.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Maurizio Massari said Wednesday there was now a "convergence" with the African Union about negotiating a post-Gadhafi Libya.
Associated Press writer Paul Schemm in Tripoli contributed to this report.
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