By Ray Fleming

BRITAIN'S decision this week to follow twelve other countries in recognising Libya's rebel National Transition Council (NTC) as the country's legitimate government was thrown into murky relief when the NTC's commander in chief was killed in mysterious circumstances on Thursday night. General Younis had defected from Gaddafi's army in February and was welcomed in Benghazi.

Four possible scenario's have been offered to explain his death including one that he remained in contact with Gaddafi with whom he had been close since 1969. William Hague's assurance that the NTC has “increased legitimacy, competence and success” looks questionable when its military chief is murdered.

Also this week Britain backed the idea that Gaddafi might be permitted to remain in Libya after relinquishing all military and civil power if the Libyan people wanted this solution to the stalemate between Gaddafi and his supporters in Tripoli and the NTC in Benghazi. But everything that is known about Gaddafi suggests that he would never remain in Libya without interfering by one means or another with the government of the day.

The failure of intense NATO air attacks either to shake Gaddafi's determination to fight on or to help the rebels to advance on Tripoli is leading to talk of the partition of Libya into eastern and western administrations -- a solution which should be regarded only as an unwelcome last resort that would solve nothing in the long term.

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