The Libyan government has dismissed a call by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for Muammar Gaddafi's immediate withdrawal, saying such a decision is not up to Turkey.
Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim, speaking in Tripoli on Wednesday, said it is up to the Libyan people, and not Turkey, to decide if it is time for their embattled leader to go.
"If you want to be a mediator, you shouldn't express yourself to support one party against the other," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
Turkey is a key regional mediator and has in the past tried to nudge Gaddafi to meet demands for change from the opposition. However, Erdoğan adopted a much tougher stance on Tuesday, saying that Gaddafi must "immediately step down."
"We wish that the Libyan leader immediately withdraw from the administration and leave Libya for his own sake and the sake of his country's future without leading to further destruction, tears and bloodshed," Erdoğan said in İstanbul.
He said if Gaddafi did take such a step, diplomats would arrange for his safety and for his departure to a country that will host him. Erdoğan did not say whether any country was ready to accept Gaddafi in exile.
Turkey initially balked at the idea of military action in Libya, but citing its responsibilities as a NATO member it took part in the enforcement of an arms embargo on Libya while volunteering to lead humanitarian aid efforts.