France, Britain in new push for Libya no-fly zone at UN

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France and Britain are still pushing the UN Security Council to order a Libya no-fly zone to help rebels under assault from Moamer Kadhafi's forces, France's UN envoy said Tuesday.

French envoy Gerard Araud said Security Council action was now urgent as the international community has only "hours" to help the rebels. Other nations remain deeply hesitant, however, and the proposal did not get backing from the Group of Eight foreign ministers.

"We are working for a no-fly zone, our goal is to get a no-fly zone," Gerard Araud told reporters as he went into Security Council consultations on a resolution presented by Lebanon, acting for the Arab League, France and Britain.

"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.

No vote is expected for at least a day, however.

"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," the envoy said.

"The goal is first to prevent Kadhafi from bombing his own people, really, that is our goal."

But Araud said the supporters of a no-fly zone had to accept there is opposition.

"It means that we can't do everything that we would want to do. So we are trying, France and the UK, especially, we are trying our utmost to move the council towards responding to the Arab League."

Araud said France wanted a resolution passed quickly. "So it means for us in the very coming days."

Germany and the United States have pressed to tighten existing sanctions because of doubts about the effectiveness and political impact of a no-fly zone.

But Araud said: "We do consider the sanctions are other than the priority. Of course the sanctions are useful and we are ready to work on them. Discussing on sanctions should not delay having a no fly zone."

Russia and China, two of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, are leading opposition to a no-fly zone.

But the envoy spoke after the Group of Eight foreign ministers meeting in Paris appeared to drop support for military action.

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.

Earlier, Juppe told French lawmakers that amid the fierce assault by the Libyan leader's forces on the opposition rebels the no-fly zone plan may have been overtaken by events.

© 2011 AFP

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