Britain says nothing to hold back US on Libya

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British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday there was nothing now stopping the United States from backing a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Moamer Kadhafi's forces battering rebels.

France, Britain and the United States are pressing for a UN Security Council vote Thursday on a resolution that includes an aerial exclusion zone, but Washington has been notably less keen than the two European powers so far.

"There is nothing now holding them back," Hague told lawmakers when asked about perceived US reticence on the issue.

"In fact, yesterday the US proposed a strengthening of the resolution, which the UK and France and Lebanon were putting forward together at the Security Council.

"So the US's position came out very clearly yesterday at the Security Council."

He also rejected "ridiculous" suggestions that there was a lack of communication between Britain and the United States on the issue, saying there was a "mass of hourly contact".

The French and British have led calls for a no-fly zone, and on Wednesday the United States joined them in putting forward a draft resolution which included the measure.

The US envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said a no-fly zone was one of a "range of actions" that should be contemplated but warned it "has inherent limitations in terms of protection of civilians at immediate risk".

Earlier Thursday, Alistair Burt, a British Foreign Office minister with special responsibility for the Middle East, hailed a "significant change in the position of the White House" on the issue.

"We obviously appreciate that the United States does realise the urgency of the situation."

The situation in Libya "makes it imperative that something is done and something is done today," Burt added.

Russia, Germany and other countries of the 15-member Security Council have expressed opposition or doubts about military action in Libya.

© 2011 AFP

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