Coalition ground troops in Libya 'excluded': French PM

22nd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Tuesday that sending coalition ground troops into Libya was "explicitly excluded" as an option.

France cannot be a "substitute" for the Libyan people, even if Paris has called for the ouster of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, he said before the French national assembly.

"We are not conducting a civil war against Libya, but an operation to protect civilian populations, an operation that is using legitimate force," he said during parliamentary debate.

"The objective is to protect the Libyan population, even as we explicitly exclude sending an occupation force on the ground," he added, facing down criticism of the UN-backed military operation which began Saturday.

Fillon said the operation, jointly led by France, Britain and the United States, was designed to give opposition forces in Libya some breathing space so they can regroup and pursue their goals.

"By removing the Kadhafi regime's military superiority, we want to offer the Libyan people the chance to gather courage, to define a political strategy, and to decide their future," he said.

Even if France is calling for Kadhafi's departure, he continued, "it is up to the Libyan people, and only them, to decide their destiny and their future leaders".

Fillon welcomed the actions taken by the self-declared Libyan transition authority, based in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Paris has recognized the authority as its "political interlocutor", and is in constant contact with its members, he said.

© 2011 AFP

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