Political contact group for Libya to meet in London: France

23rd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

A political contact group for Libya, bringing together the United States, France, Britain and other coalition partners, will meet for the first time Tuesday in London, the French foreign minister said.

"We have just taken the initiative with my British colleague to invite, next Tuesday in London, a contact group composed of all the countries participating in the operation, as well as the African Union, the Arab League, and all interested European nations," Alain Juppe told the French national assembly.

Juppe also said it was important to "make clear that the political leadership is not NATO, but the contact group".

The loosely-articulated coalition that began military operations on Saturday to enforce a UN resolution to protect Libyan civilians and enforce a no fly zone has had trouble agreeing on a leadership structure.

The United States has favoured handing over key responsibilities to NATO, while France has expressed concern that a formal role for the alliance would hamper effective action.

"We see this as UN operation under a UN mandate. It is implemented by a coalition of European, north American and Arab countries," Juppe said, adding that the effort needed a "secular arm", or operational command structure.

The first phase of the military riposte against Kadhafi forces on the ground was led by the United States "in close cooperation with the French and the British", he said.

"Today, we have reached an understanding that this 'secular arm' is both NATO and the European Union," he told the deputies.

"The trans-Atlantic alliance will oversee operational planning and execution, while the European Union ... will cover humanitarian operations, including by sea," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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