The last time a Libyan leader traveled to the U.S. and Europe to talk to his international counterparts, he wore desert robes, slept in a Bedouin tent, and vilified the West in incomprehensible diatribes. Now, the Libyan leader holed up in meetings with top diplomats in foreign capitals wears a suit and tie, speaks flawless English, and flaunts a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. In brief: Mahmoud Gebril is about as jolting a contrast from Muammar Gaddafi as one can imagine.
Gebril, 58, was picked by the rebel leaders in Benghazi last month as the interim of their National Council an attempt at cobbling together a shadow government, ready to run Libya the moment Gaddafi leaves. Though that victory is hardly assured a military stalemate or defeat looks equally likely for Gebril, the moment to start behaving like a head of state has already arrived. And in Benghazi on Friday, Gebril’s colleague, Libya’s defected justice minister Mustafa Abdul-Jalil told reporters that a ceasefire in the war could require “Gaddafi brigades and forces [to] withdraw from inside and outside Libyan cities to give freedom to the Libyan people to choose and the world will see that they will choose freedom.” In recent days, Gaddafi’s hugely powerful son, Saif al-Islam’s top aide, Mohamed Ismail, has reportedly been talking to British officials, perhaps about a deal to end the war against Gaddafi.