Britain seeks lawmakers' backing over Libya action

21st March 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron will seek lawmakers' support Monday for military action in Libya, as ministers refused to rule out targeting Moamer Kadhafi himself.

The House of Commons is likely to vote strongly in support of the military action.

British forces have already been engaged in two nights of air and sea attacks as part of international action against the Libyan leader's forces.

Cameron has the support of his Conservative party and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, as well as the opposition Labour party.

But questions are likely to be asked about the aims of the intervention, which is being taken under a UN Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire and a no-fly zone to protect civilians from Kadhafi's troops.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox has suggested that Kadhafi himself would be a legitimate target of the strikes.

The lack of Arab involvement in the air strikes, despite the Arab League's support for the UN resolution, has also sparked concern and provoked comparisons with the US-led 2003 war in Iraq.

Cameron will also likely face questions about how such action will be affected in future by swingeing cuts to the defence budget announced last year as part of a major austerity drive to reduce the deficit.

Fox was asked by the BBC on Sunday if the Libyan leader was a legitimate target and replied: "Well, that would potentially be a possibility.

"But you mention immediately one of the problems we would have, which is that you would have to take into account any civilian casualties that might result from that."

Asked about the posibility of targeting Kadhafi, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "I'm not going to speculate on the targets... that depends on the circumstances at the time."

He had previously insisted that "the resolution is not about regime change", saying that while Britain wanted to see Kadhafi leave power, "what we will do militarily is to enforce the United Nations resolution".

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates immediately slapped down Fox's comments, telling reporters on a flight to Russia that it would be "unwise" to have coalition forces try to kill Kadhafi.

British forces bombarded Libyan targets for a second night Sunday, launching Tomahawk missiles from a submarine in the Mediterranean. A Tornado air strike was aborted at the last minute because of fears that civilians would be hit.

Acutely aware of the controversies in Britain's involvement in Iraq, Cameron has consistently argued that the assault is "necessary, legal and right".

He has promised to publish a summary of the legal advice authorising the Libya action -- his first since taking office in May -- and has also stressed repeatedly that there will be no British invasion of the north African country.

"It seems to me that we have to learn the lessons of Iraq by proceeding with the maximum Arab support and being very clear that there will be no army of occupation," Cameron told lawmakers on Friday.

This Arab support has failed to translate into military action so far, and Arab League chief Amr Mussa said Sunday that the attacks at the weekend had exceeded the bounds set by the UN resolution.

However, Hague said he spoke to Mussa after he made those remarks, saying: "I would be concerned if he was understood in the world as criticising what we had done. He said no, he had not meant to do that."

The foreign secretary added: "Of course he was expressing his concern, as we all do, about any civilian casualties... he continued to support the UN resolution, the implementation of the resolution."

© 2011 AFP

0 Comments To This Article