Plan for no-fly zone over Libya moves closer after rebel plea
Regional support key to UN resolution
Published 08/03/2011 | 05:00
PRESSURE was mounting last night within diplomatic circles to win support at the United Nations for a no-fly zone over Libya which would be swiftly implemented if Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime committed human rights violations.
France and Britain were spearheading the efforts with William Hague, Britain's foreign secretary, claiming that the Libyan rebels had "explicitly" asked for action to prevent Colonel Gaddafi's attacks from the air but that "many conditions should be attached" to any no-fly zone.
"At the UN Security Council we are working closely with partners on a contingency basis on elements of a resolution on a no-fly zone, making clear the need for regional support, a clear trigger for such a resolution and an appropriate legal basis," he told parliament.
Diplomats at the UN said a resolution could be presented later this week at the earliest, but depended heavily on events on the ground in Libya. A resolution will not be submitted without solid support from the Arab League and the tacit approval of Russia and China, which, as permanent members of the UN Security Council, can veto a resolution.
"There should be a demonstrable need that the whole world can see, there must be a clear legal basis for such a no-fly zone and there must be clear support from the region, from the Middle East region, from the North African region as well as from the people of Libya themselves," said Mr Hague.
Efforts are under way to reach agreement on what "triggers" would lead to the resolution being submitted. They are likely to include "gross and systematic" human rights violations, bombing of civilians and importation of foreign mercenaries, according to diplomats.
Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, supported a no-fly zone when he spoke to Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, in Cairo on Sunday, said a foreign ministry spokesman.
The Obama administration has so far not endorsed a no-fly zone, but is content with the British and the French to force the issue. Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, has warned that any foreign military intervention in Libya should have international backing.
Ivo Daalder, the US ambassador to Nato, which would probably enforce the ban, said: "We are comfortable with the pace at which planning is proceeding. By the end of the week we will be in a position to know what it will take to do a no-fly zone."
US president Barack Obama and his senior aides remain wary of US military intervention, given its continued involvement in two other Muslim countries, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr Daalder questioned the effectiveness of a no-fly zone, given that Colonel Gaddafi's forces were mostly deploying ground forces against the rebels.
Mussa Kussa, Libyan foreign minister, accused the West of conspiring to divide Libya.
"It is clear that France, Great Britain and the US are now getting in touch with defectors in eastern Libya. It means there is a conspiracy to divide Libya," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)