Libya no-fly zone vital to halt 'greater bloodshed': Britain

18th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday that the United Nations Security Council's resolution to impose a no-fly zone over battle-torn Libya was vital to "avoid greater bloodshed".

"It is necessary to take these measures to avoid greater bloodshed and to try to stop what is happening in terms of attacks on...the people of Libya," Hague said in a statement.

"This places a responsibility on the members of the UN and that is a responsibility to which the United Kingdom will now respond," Hague promised.

Members of the Security Council earlier approved a resolution permitting "all necessary measures" to impose the no-fly zone, protect civilian areas and impose a ceasefire on leader Moamer Kadhafi's military.

The vote passed 10-0 with five abstentions in the 15 member council. Permanent members China and Russia were among those abstaining, but did not use their veto power, which would have sunk the resolution.

A coalition of Britain, France and the United States is expected to launch air strikes imminently as Kadhafi's troops close in on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Britain's Royal Air Force is expected to send Tornado attack aircraft equipped with precise weapons from their bases in Marham, east England, and Lossiemouth in Scotland.

The British foreign minister claimed that the three criteria needed to justify action against Kadhafi -- a demonstrable need, a clear legal basis and regional support -- had now been realised.

"The statements of the Kadhafi regime in recent days have provided that demonstrable need," argued Hague. "This (the UN resolution) is the clear legal basis."

Hague said support from within the region was "evident in the statement of the Arab League and in the readiness to participate in a no-fly zone by members of the League".

After weeks of diplomatic wrangling, action was finally approved just hours after Kadhafi, in a televised address, warned that his troops would launch an assault on Benghazi on Thursday night and show "no mercy."

Hague, who has been under fire at home for his handling of the ongoing Arab uprising, said the resolution was the "culmination of a great deal of hard work in the last few days by France, the United Kingdom, Lebanon and the United States.

He added that the resolution authorised "the use all of all necessary measures to protect the civilian population and populated areas including Benghazi."

Anti-war campaigners slammed the vote, warning that Britain could get dragged into a lengthy operation.

"The lessons of two disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been learned," London-based group Stop the War Coalition said in a statement.

"The price paid in hundreds of thousands of lives and two devastated countries will now be extended to the people of Libya," it added.

© 2011 AFP

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