x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UN deadlocked over Libya no-fly zone

The Arab League is in favour, and Britain and France have prepared a draft no-fly zone resolution, but they must persuade the other permanent, veto-wielding council states, Russia, China and the United States, who all have concerns about military steps.

A Libyan man holds up a sign asking for a no-fly zone over Libya near the border town of Musa.
A Libyan man holds up a sign asking for a no-fly zone over Libya near the border town of Musa.

NEW YORK // The UN Security Council was deadlocked last night over imposing a no-fly zone on Libya yesterday, with France pushing a draft resolution and calling for urgent action to halt the advance of forces loyal to strongman Muammar Qaddafi.

As Col Qaddafi's troops advanced their fierce assault against the rebels to the key town of Ajdabiya, France's UN ambassador, Gérard Araud, said Paris and its allies in the 15-nation body would present a text to vote on "as soon as possible".

"We, the coalition of the willing among the countries which are in favour of a no-fly zone, now we have to present a text to the council," he said after a meeting of the divided UN chamber. "There were concerns, there were questions, but I think we are moving forward."

"I think the problem for us is the urgency. As you know the Qaddafi forces are moving forward so we would prefer to act as quickly as possible so we would want that our partners on the council had the same sense of urgency that we have."

Lebanon called a meeting of the UN Security Council yesterday to convey this weekend's Arab League decision to back a no-fly zone over Libya. Beirut's ambassador, Nawaf Salam, said he was trying to convince other members of the body to support the plan.

Britain and France have prepared elements of a draft no-fly zone resolution, but must persuade two other permanent, veto-wielding council states Russia and China. The United States and some non-permanent members also express concerns about military steps.

Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said proposals for a no-fly zone lacked crucial details, such as which countries would deploy their air forces and whether policing the zone would first require attacks on Col Qaddafi's military airports.

"We have not had enough information," Mr Churkin said. "To say we need to act as quickly as possible but not provide answers to those fundamental questions, to us, is not really helping. It's just beating the air. You need to be specific when you make a proposal of this fundamental importance."

The Russian diplomat stressed the need for a "political resolution" between Col Qaddafi's regime and the eastern rebels, voicing support for the efforts of the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and his envoys to end the bloodshed.

In a no-fly zone, US and Nato warplanes would potentially ground Col Qaddafi's air power in order to protect civilians and the opposition, but hundreds of planes would probablu be needed to police the skies over Libya's vast territory.

Syria's UN ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari, said Damascus did not agree with the Arab League move. "We are against foreign intervention in Libyan domestic affairs. We don't want to see a new Iraq in the Arab World. We don't need a new catastrophe," he said.

Discussions continued at a meeting of foreign ministers from the G8 group of eight big economies in Paris, where the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton ,was due to meet the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov ,and their counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

In Libya, the poorly equipped rebel forces have been gradually beaten back by forces loyal to Col Qaddafi, routed from several towns by shelling and airstrikes. The Libyan opposition national council's representative, Mahmoud Jibril, and his delegation have been seeking formal support abroad. Mrs Clinton would meet them in Paris during her visit, a US official said.

France has formally recognised the council as Libya's legitimate representatives. The European Union has agreed to talk to them but has so far stopped short of full recognition.

Mr Jalil was quoted by the Financial Times yesterday as saying that countries not supporting the uprising would miss out on Libya's oil if Col Qaddafi's regime is deposed.

The G8 ministers were also to discuss Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which have raised fears of a nuclear disaster after damage to a power plant, as well as economic concerns.

"The ministers will begin their work looking at the consequences of the unprecedented natural catastrophe that has just hit Japan," ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told journalists.

jreinl@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse