US officials have held face-to-face talks with representatives of Col Muammar Gaddafi's government, the US State Department has confirmed.
In a statement, the US said the meeting reiterated its demand that Colonel Gaddafi step down, and involved no negotiations. "The message was simple and unambiguous - Gaddafi must leave power so that a new political process can begin that reflects the will and aspirations of the Libyan people," it said.
Moussa Ibrahim, Government Spokesman hailed the talks as an important step in “repairing relations with the US”. He said the Libyan government supported dialogue with the US but only if it was free from preconditions. “We will discuss everything but do not condition your peace talks. Let the Libyans decide their future”, he stressed.
The US did not give the location of the talks, but Libya said they had taken place on Saturday in neighboring Tunisia.
Washington said that Jeffrey Feltman, the US Assistant Secretary of State for near eastern affairs, and the US ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz, had been involved in the talks, but would not say who represented the Libyan side.
American officials said no further talks were planned "because the message has been delivered".
In recent weeks the French have held similar meetings with Libyan officials in the Tunisian resort of Djerba - the difference between the two approaches is that the French have specified that Col Gaddafi must be sent into exile.
So far, Gaddafi has laughed off suggestions he would leave the country.
On Monday, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, who has led a mediation mission on behalf of the African Union, said that Libya needed a democratic government but the Libyan people must decide their own destiny and that, if Col Gaddafi goes, conditions must be in place as to when, where and how that happens.
Meanwhile, Russia has refused to recognize the rebel leadership as the legitimate Libyan government, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying such a move amounted to taking sides in a civil war.
Rebels said they had pushed government troops westwards after seizing back most of the town of Brega. The Libyan government denied the claim, insisting that the key oil refinery town was still firmly under its control. (BBC; Reuters)