Tony Blair defends phone calls to Gaddafi warning him to flee

tony blair claims he wasn’t trying ‘to save’ Colonel Gaddafi in phone calls he made asking himto step down as Libya descended into chaos during 2011.

The former British Prime Minister cleared the phone call with David Cameron before he rang the late dictator to say ‘that the violence had to end’ and ‘he had to stand aside to allow a peaceful process to take’.

He also told him he ‘must leave the country’ before he was murdered in October 2011.

Details of the calls made in February of that year emerged as Mr Blair gave evidence at the Foreign Affairs Select Committee at the House of Commons over British airstrikes on Libya.

He said: “It’s been presented as if I was trying to save Gadaffi. I wasn’t trying to save Gadaffi. I was trying to get him to go.”

He also claims his relationship with the Libyan dictator stopped chemical weapons getting into Isis’ hands and he had effectively brought the country ‘in from the cold’ after 30 years of isolation.

At every single discussion with the former regime he said he discussed the Lockerbie bombing and the death of PC Yvonne Fletcher, killed at a Libyan demonstration in London in the 1980s. However it was also raised at the hearing that Met officers didn’t visit the country over the young police officer’s death until 2007.

He said his calls to Gaddafi were made as a private individual, because he ‘had the relationship’ with him and having gone through my his own experience in office he ‘was aware of what the risks’ were.

He said he told him that if he had a safe place he should go ‘because this will not end peacefully and there has to be a process of change’.

Mr Blair was described during the meeting as ‘the most informed witness’ in dealing with Gaddafi and years earlier in 2004 he had met him in a tent in the Libyan desert for talks which resulted in the regime halting its chemical and nucelar weapons programmes.

However by 2011 Gaddafi had been deposed in an uprising against his regime and after the passing of a UN resolution 1973, Britain joined a coalition of forces that carried out airstrikes against his army to try and protect the country’s citizens.

He was murdered during the Battle of Sirte after 40 years in power.

However the focus of the select committee hearing was to analyse British intervention, the state’s subsequent collapse and the UK’s future relationship with the country.

“My concern was not for his safety,” said Mr Blair, who spoke to him two or three times over the course of 24 hours.

“They were all to the same effect. They were all basically saying there is going to be action unless you come up with an agreed process of change.”

Mr Blair said he had spoken to Mr Cameron and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton informing them that he was going to reach out to Gaddafi as a private citizen.

“They were completely non-committal obviously but listened to what I had to say,” he added.

He refused ot be drawn on whether the British Government had acted correctly over Libya, and whether the UN resolution’s wording gave authorisation to push for a regime change.

He said: “I am not going to criticise the Prime Minister or (then French president) Nicolas Sarkozy or anyone else,” he said.

“I know how difficult these decisions are. I am sure they did it for reasons that are perfectly well intentioned and in good faith.”

If he had been in power in 2011 he would have used his relationship with Gaddafi to ask him to go but he did not know whether it would have worked, he said.