Thursday 22 February 2018

Libya operation 'may last weeks'

French fighter jets have shot down a Libyan plane (AP)
French fighter jets have shot down a Libyan plane (AP)
French military ground crew at Solenzara 126 Air Base, Corsica, prepare a Mirage 2000 jet fighter for a mission to Libya (AP)

The international military operation against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces may last days or weeks - but not months, says France's foreign minister.

Noting that some autocrats - and now Gaddafi - have been targeted by the International Criminal Court, Alain Juppe said: "I say sometimes that the job of dictator is now a high-risk job. Let's hope that all this will serve as an example."

Mr Juppe was speaking to reporters in Paris ahead of EU and Nato meetings expected to discuss how to co-ordinate the campaign of air strikes on Libya, which so far have primarily involved US, British and French forces.

While Mr Juppe predicted that the campaign would take perhaps days or weeks but not months, others disagreed. Russia's former ambassador to Libya said Gaddafi could hold off coalition forces for months, still enjoys broad public support and will not step down.

Vladimir Chamov, who was relieved of his duties last weekend by President Dmitry Medvedev, said on arrival in Moscow that the hostilities could turn Libya into a hotbed of instability resembling Iraq or Somalia.

Confusion over who is in charge of the international operation has contributed to diplomatic tensions, with France and Britain appearing to lay the groundwork for separating the intervention into military and political sides.

The military side could be managed by Nato, while the political side would be run by a different group that would include Arab countries and be seen less as Western interventionism. US, European, and Arab and African officials have been invited to London next week for political talks on the situation.

The UN Security Council authorised the no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians after Gaddafi launched attacks against anti-government protesters who wanted him to leave after 42 years in power.

EU leaders will hold a summit in Brussels at which Libya is expected to figure heavily in discussion. Among concerns are whether the Libyan opposition governing council is up to the task of running a democratic country.

Nato remained deadlocked over its role in ensuring the no-fly zone, and envoys are set to meet again to try to nail down rules determining circumstances under which the military alliance can use force.

Press Association

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