G8 shows no sign of bridging gap on Libya action
The Group of Eight powers gathered in Paris on Monday to thrash out a common line on possible intervention to ground the warplanes pounding Libya's rebels, but there was no sign they achieved it.
During a dinner, US officials said, the G8 ministers also discussed Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which have raised fears of a nuclear disaster after damage to a power plant.
The conversation, however, "was primarily devoted to Libya," a senior US official told reporters, speaking of a "sense of urgency" about the humanitarian and political situation there.
In Libya, as forces loyal to strongman Moamer Khadhafi pushed their fierce assault against the rebels to the key town of Ajdabiya, the world's eight powers were seeking a common front, with host France pushing for a no-fly zone.
But the consensus at the dinner attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia, was to take the isse to the UN Security Council, the US official said.
They agreed that "it needs to go back for a full and public discussion of what all of the measures that have been discussed entail," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
Some ministers alluded to no-fly zones, others mentioned "safety zones," while others talked of further sanctions, he added.
The goal they all backed was to "increase pressure" on Kadhafi's regime and "to stop the regime from using force" against the Libyan people, the official said.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has vowed to step up efforts to get approval for the no-fly zone, which is backed by the 22-nation Arab League, considered crucial for dealing with the region.
But the US official said the ministers wanted "clarification" from the Arab League about how the organization could support a no-fly zone but still declare opposition to military intervention.
Britain and France, which are drafting a resolution for the UN Security Council, failed last week to convince their European Union partners to back the zone.
Russia and the United States, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, are also lukewarm.
"Fundamental questions" needed to be resolved before a resolution was passed, said Russia.
Germany said some questions, notably on upping political and economic measures against Kadhafi, had not yet been answered.
France is keen to see a Security Council resolution that is "as broad as possible," in its wording on using air power, without being limited to a no-fly zone, said one source close to the talks.
China, the only veto-wielding member of the Security Council not represented at the Paris G8 talks, also opposes a no-fly zone.
France has also proposed targeted bombings against Kadhafi if he attacks his own people.
In Libya, the poorly equipped rebel forces have been gradually beaten back by forces loyal to Kadhafi, forced out of several towns by shelling and airstrikes.
The Libyan opposition national council's representative Mahmoud Jibril and his delegation have been seeking formal support abroad and a no-fly zone.
Clinton met Jibril in a 45-minute "private and candid" conversation about ways Washington could support them against Kadhafi, her top aide Philippe Reines told reporters.
But she stopped short of pledging US support for military aid, US officials said.
"We would provide additional assistance beyond humanitarian support, but she did not get into specifics about what that aid would be," a senior administration official said.
France has formally recognised the council as Libya's legitimate representatives. The European Union has agreed to talk to them but has so far stopped short of full recognition.
The leader of the council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, was quoted by the Financial Times on Monday as saying that countries not supporting the uprising would miss out on Libya's oil if Kadhafi's regime was deposed.
In a no-fly zone, US and NATO warplanes would ground Kadhafi's air power protect civilians and the opposition -- but would likely need hundreds of planes to police the skies over Libya's vast territory.
© 2011 AFP