France says Libya no-fly zone plan overtaken by events

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A Franco-British plan to implement a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent leader Moamer Kadhafi from bombing rebels has been overtaken by events, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday.

"We feel that it's been overtaken, that that's not what today will stop Kadhafi's advance," Juppe told the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, adding that "we need to talk about it, we could return to our proposal."

Juppe spoke after hosting Group of Eight counterparts in Paris who issued a final statement that dropped proposals for military intervention in Libya and turned to the United Nations to increase the pressure on Kadhafi.

The French and British drive to impose a no-fly zone over Libya failed to win round the United States, Russia and other European Union powers, notably Germany.

Juppe told the committee that the plan had been to carry out targeted strikes on Libyan airfields rather than send hundreds of planes to patrol Libyan skies.

He said Kadhafi "has less than 20 operational fighter planes and not many more helicopters."

Libyan government forces loyal to Kadhafi have been heading steadily eastwards towards the insurgents' capital of Benghazi, crushing lightly armed opposition in their path with artillery and air strikes.

"That's what changed the balance of power between the rebllion and the regime, the use of air power and artillery," Juppe said.

"Our plan wasn't followed simply because some of our partners were opposed to any mention of the use of military force."

© 2011 AFP

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