UN battle over Libya no-fly zone

16th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

France, Britain and Arab nations made a new push at the UN Security Council on Tuesday to establish a Libya no-fly zone to stop air attacks on rebels by Moamer Kadhafi's forces.

A draft resolution that diplomats said would ban "all flights" in Libyan airspace and allow "all necessary measures to enforce compliance" was distributed.

Several nations said there was a growing urgency to act, but the military action faced resistance from nations such as Russia and China, and doubts even from the likes of Germany, India and the United States.

New "paragraph by paragraph" talks on the two-part draft resolution are to be held on Wednesday, said Britain's envoy Mark Lyall Grant. But diplomats said no vote was likely before Thursday.

Lebanon, acting for the Arab League, proposed half of the resolution which calls for a no-fly zone to protect civilians.

The second part, drawn up by Britain and France, calls for toughened sanctions against the Kadhafi regime, including adding new names of individuals and entities face an asset freeze and travel ban, diplomats said.

Lyall Grant said there had been "a good response" and "all member states stressed the urgency of the situation."

China and Russia are leading opposition to the no-fly zone however. The United States is very cautious and Germany favors putting new bite into the arms embargo, travel ban and assets freeze passed by the council on February 26.

"We are deeply distressed by the fact that the things are worsening on the ground, that the Kadhafi forces are moving forward extremely quickly and that this council has not yet reacted," French envoy Gerard Araud told reporters.

"We are talking in terms of hours, and in terms of hours we do think that a no-fly zone is the least thing that we can do here," he added.

Araud acknowledged the opposition however. "So we are trying, France and the UK, especially, we are trying our utmost to move the council towards responding to the Arab League."

"Nothing is too late but it maybe not enough," commented Lebanon's ambassador Nawaf Salam.

Opponents want to know who will take part in the no-fly zone and how it will be patrolled. India's envoy Hardeep Singh Puri raised questions about the ban on "all flights".

"Some members have questions and they need clarifications before a decision is made," China's ambassador Li Baodong told reporters. But he added: "We are very concerned about the deteriorating situation in Libya."

Salam said the no-fly zone resolution should not need military strikes to knock out bases and planes as he hoped it "would have a deterrent effect on the Kadhafi regime not to fly its airplanes to attack civilian areas."

Arab involvement in the zone is a central part of talks. The Arab League called for a no-fly zone at a meeting last Saturday. But no country has yet volunteered to take part and the Arab nations also said there should be no foreign military intervention in Libya.

"We raised questions we felt are still not fully answered, as to the Arab participation in such a measure, as to whether the implementation of such a zone would run counter to the intention of the Arab League itself," said Germany's ambassador Peter Wittig.

The no-fly zone appeared to have been dropped when it failed to get support from a meeting of Group of Eight foreign ministers in Paris.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said China was blocking UN action on Libya.

"If today we are stuck, it's not only because Europe is impotent, it's because at the Security Council, for now, China doesn't want any mention of a resolution leading to the international community's interference in a country's affairs," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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