Friday, April 15, 2011

Libya conflict: France eyes new UN resolution

The BBC's Orla Guerin reports from a crowded Misrata hospital
The French defence minister has suggested a new UN Security Council resolution may be needed for Nato allies to achieve their goals in Libya.
Gerard Longuet was speaking after a joint letter by the US, UK and French leaders said there could be no peace while Col Muammar Gaddafi was in power.
The current UN resolution makes no mention of regime change.
Signs of division remain within Nato, which is struggling to find additional combat aircraft for its strikes.
Nato pilots are enforcing the current UN resolution to establish a no-fly zone and to protect civilians in Libya, which has effectively been split between forces for and against Col Gaddafi since a revolt against his rule began in mid-February.
United front Speaking on French radio, Mr Longuet conceded that ousting Col Gaddafi would be "certainly" beyond the scope of the existing UN Security Council resolution 1973 on Libya, and could require a new council vote.

At the Nato conference

Britain and the United States had crucial talks in the margins of the Nato meetings this morning: Hillary Clinton and William Hague were trying to build momentum with the French behind increased pressure on Col Gaddafi.
They talked about political pressure, but also about the imperative - for them - of persuading other Nato countries to volunteer extra attack aircraft to intensify the bombing campaign.
Afterwards Mr Hague again said he was hopeful others would step up. It's clear Italy is being worked on particularly hard, but so far there's a gap between Nato's ambitions and its ability to break stalemate in Libya.
"Beyond resolution 1973, certainly it didn't mention the future of Gaddafi but I think that three major countries saying the same thing is important to the United Nations and perhaps one day the Security Council will adopt a resolution."
At the Berlin conference, Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the organisation was absolutely determined to continue its operation for as long as there was a threat against Libyan civilians.
"And it's impossible to imagine that threat [will] disappear with Gaddafi in power," he added.
In their open letter published earlier on Friday, Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy said Nato must maintain military operations to protect civilians and maintain pressure on Col Gaddafi.
To allow him to remain in power would "betray" the Libyan people, they wrote.
The letter from the three leaders, published in the UK's Times newspaper as well as the International Herald Tribune and France's Le Figaro, was an attempt to show a united front against Col Gaddafi.
Only a few of Nato's 28 members - including France, the UK, Canada, Belgium, Norway and Denmark - are conducting air strikes.
Mr Rasmussen has said there are indications that allies will provide extra strike aircraft needed for the operation in Libya.
"We have got indications that nations will deliver what is needed... I'm hopeful that we will get the necessary assets in the very near future," he said in Berlin.
But after he had spoken, Italy - which is thought to have been identified as a key potential contributor - seemed to rule out ordering its aircraft to open fire.
Rome has made air bases available for Nato forces, but the eight aircraft it has supplied to the effort are only being used for reconnaissance and monitoring.
"The current line being followed by Italy is the right one and we are not thinking about changing our contribution to the military operations in Libya," Reuters reported Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa as telling reporters in Rome.
Rebels holding out While politicians debated the way forward, fighting on the ground and Nato bombing missions have continued.
Libyan rebel fighters riding pick-up trucks by the western gate of Ajdabiya, Libya, 15 April 2011 While politicians debated the way forward, fighting on the ground and Nato bombing missions continued
Libyan state TV reported Nato air strikes had hit the cities of Sirte - Col Gaddafi's birthplace - and Aziziya, south of the capital Tripoli.
There were also reports of rocket strikes by pro-Gaddafi forces on the western rebel-held city of Misrata.
Rebels said a rocket attack in Misrata by pro-Gaddafi forces killed 23 people on Thursday. Neither account could be confirmed.
Rebels in the city have been holding out against attacks for two months, but UK Foreign Secretary William Hague stressed that Nato needed to act swiftly to prevent a "massacre" in the city.
He said Nato had been constrained by the need to avoid civilian casualties but had probably prevented the city from being overrun by Col Gaddafi's forces.
The BBC's Orla Guerin in Misrata said staff at a hospital there were battling to treat civilians injured by mortars and rocket fire.
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