France to host 'decisive' summit on Libya action

18th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

France is to host a "decisive" summit Saturday 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, will also be attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama said, as Western and Arab nations prepared military action against Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

"In this effort, the United States is prepared to act as part of an international coalition. American leadership is essential but that does not mean acting alone," Obama said.

Late Friday the French presidency released a statement that France, Britain, the United States and Arab countries had told Kadhafi to "immediately" cease all attacks against his people or face the consequences.

The statement said "that a ceasefire must be put in place immediately, that is, that all attacks against civilians must come to an end".

It went on to state that "Kadhafi must end his troops' advance on Benghazi and withdraw from Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zawiyah.... That is not negotiable."

It also warned that if Kadhafi did not comply with the UN Security Council resolution, he would face "consequences" from the international community and "the resolution will be imposed by military means".

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".

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 Benghazi that the "Kadhafi regime never stopped firing or attacking people. Until this moment he is still attacking places that are under siege".

In a statement read on their radio station late Friday the rebel military command urged fighters to mobilise swiftly to defend western access routes to their stronghold of Benghazi.

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.

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".

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.

Obama also warned that Kadhafi must immediately halt his forces' advance on Benghazi and pull back from three other rebel contested cities, or face military action.

"That means all attacks against civilians must stop. Kadhafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zawiyah and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas," Obama said.

Additionally, Obama said, Kadhafi must allow humanitarian aid to reach the country's people.

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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