No need to attack Libya defences for no-fly zone: Britain

10th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox said Thursday there were alternatives to wiping out Libya's air defence system to implement a no-fly zone.

In contrast to comments by his US counterpart Robert Gates, Fox said attacking Libya's air defences might not be necessary, citing the no-fly zones imposed over Iraq from 1991 to 2003.

Fox said a no-fly zone over Libya would require a demonstrable need, a strong legal basis and broad international and regional support.

"If it were to be carried out it would be for the protection of the civilian population," he told BBC radio.

Fox was speaking before heading to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defence ministers to thrash out the military alliance's options on the crisis in Libya.

Within NATO "there is a very clear understanding that we want to get a legal basis for this," he said.

He said Britain had been in discussions with its counterparts at the UN on "how we might prepare for such a resolution which would be needed".

Asked if he agreed that a no-fly zone would mean knocking out Libya's air defence systems first, Fox replied: "In Iraq that was not the way that we carried out the no-fly zone. There are alternatives.

"Rather than taking out air defences you can say that if your air defence radar locks on to any of our aircraft, we regard that as a hostile act and take subsequent action."

He said Gates's view was "one military option but there are other military options which, as I say, we used, for example, in Iraq.

"We'd want to look at all of these. This is some way down the road yet."

© 2011 AFP

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