France to host 'decisive' summit on Libya action

18th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

France is on Saturday to host a "decisive" summit with the European Union, the Arab League and the African Union as well as UN chief Ban Ki-moon on taking UN-sanctioned military action in Libya.

The summit, hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, comes after the UN Security Council on Thursday passed a Franco-British resolution authorising military action in Libya to halt leader Moamer Kadhafi's attacks on civilians.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe warned on Friday that everything was ready for military action, but suggested after Kadhafi declared a ceasefire that none would be taken ahead of the summit, which he called "decisive".

"We are ready," Juppe told journalists after talks with Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

"But tomorrow's meeting that will bring together many European countries, the Americans, Arab countries, African countries, will be the moment first of all to analyse recent statements from the Kadhafi regime on the ceasefire and to draw the conclusions," Juppe said.

"I repeat, everything is ready. I don't want to give you more of a precise timetable," he said.

Western and Arab nations have been gearing up to launch air strikes after the UN approval, with the French government saying Friday morning that strikes aimed at enforcing a no-fly zone could happen "within hours."

Resolution 1973 "demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians."

Tripoli on Friday declared a ceasefire in its battle against the rebels within hours of the resolution being passed, but the rebels said attacks were ongoing.

Khaled al-Sayeh, from the rebel military council, told journalists in rebel bastion Benghazi that the "Kadhafi regime never stopped firing or attacking people. Until this moment he is still attacking places that are under siege."

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who with Sarkozy was at the vanguard of the resolution, is to attend the summit along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country abstained from the vote.

Juppe said that Libya must respect the "ceasefire on all the territory of Libya and not only Benghazi."

"We think that Libya must also comply with all the resolutions of the Security Council. We will discuss this point tomorrow with (...) the Europeans, Americans, Arabs and Africans".

A statement from Sarkozy's office said the summit was also open to "all states that want to support the application of this resolution."

Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa will also join, after the 22-member pan-Arab body called last week on the UN to impose a no-fly zone, saying Kadhafi's regime had "lost legitimacy."

But the Arab League as well as the UN resolution are both clear on avoiding a foreign military occupation of Libya, where rebels have been fighting a month-long battle with Kadhafi's troops, demanding freedom and democracy.

The head of the Arab League's secretariat, Hisham Yussef, said the summit was called "to discuss the situation in Libya and how to tackle it in the light of the latest UN resolution."

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is to attend the summit along with EU president Herman Van Rompuy, said: "The issue of course is what's the significance of the statement on the ceasefire and how that fits in."

"Our view is that Kadhafi should go," she reiterated.

Foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero reiterated that France did not want NATO, which has been discussing its eventual role in enforcing the resolution, involved in any Libyan intervention as it would send the wrong signal.

"We do not think it would be the right signal to send that NATO as such intervenes in an Arab nation," Valero told AFP.

So far Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Qatar and the United States have said they will help to implement the no-fly zone.

Cameron said London would deploy Tornado and Typhoon warplanes as well as air-to-air refuelling and surveillance aircraft to airbases "from where they can take the necessary action."

Britain has an airbase on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus.


© 2011 AFP

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