CORRECTED: French foreign minister to UN for Libya vote

17th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

France on Thursday scrambled Foreign Minister Alain Juppe to the UN Security Council in New York in a bid to get a draft resolution authorising action in Libya passed, his ministry said.

"Given the urgency that the Libyan population is faced with, notably in Benghazi, Alain Juppe has decided to go to New York to obtain, as quickly as possible, a vote on the resolution," his ministry said in a statement.

Troops loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi are headed for the rebels eastern bastion of Benghazi amid fears of a massacre but with the world divided over what course to take.

France, Britain and Lebanon have tabled a draft UN resolution "broadening the scope of sanctions and opening the path for using the necessary means to stop Kadhafi's offensive," the statement said.

"The draft resolution... calls for an immediate ceasefire in Libya and authorises states to take the necessary measures to protect the threatened civilian population, especially in Benghazi," French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

"These provisions respond particularly to an Arab League demand to protect the Libyan population and exclude any occupation force in the country. The text also provided for setting up a no-fly zone and new sanctions against the Kadhafi regime," Valero said.

"Ending attacks on the population is a priority for France, a position that is constantly defended by the president (Nicolas Sarkozy) since the first acts of violence against Libyan demonstrators," the foreign ministry statement said.

The United States has apparently toughened its position, joining Britain and France in pressing for a Security Council vote Thursday on a no-fly zone to halt Kadhafi's attacks.

US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that action might have to "go beyond a no-fly zone at this point, as the situation on the ground has evolved, and as a no-fly zone has inherent limitations in terms of protection of civilians at immediate risk."

Sarkozy, in a letter to the leaders of the other countries on the 15-nation council, said on Wednesday that: "Together, we can save the martyred people of Libya. It is now a matter of days, if not hours."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has requested more information from Arab states on how a no-fly zone would be policed.

China, which like Russia wields a veto on the Security Council, has also expressed reservations about any intervention.

© 2011 AFP

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