UN Approves No-Fly Zone Over Libya

Thursday, 17 Mar 2011 07:16 PM

 

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The United Nations Security Council voted today to ground Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s air force and to grant military authority to the U.S. and its allies to protect civilians and population centers threatened by Qaddafi’s forces.

The UN’s principal policy-making panel voted 10 to 0, with five abstentions, to adopt a resolution that establishes a no- fly zone over Libya, demands a cease-fire and allows “all necessary measures” to protect civilians “excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” Russia and China, which hold veto powers, were among the countries that abstained.

“We have very little time left,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told the Security Council before the vote. “Every day, every hour we see the closing the clamp on the civilian population. We should not arrive too late.”

Editor's Note: See "Lugar Warns No-Fly Zone in Libya an Act of War"

Earlier in the day, Libyan jets dropped bombs on the outskirts of Benghazi and Qaddafi went on state television to say his forces would move within hours against the coastal city that is the rebel stronghold and Libya’s second-largest city, with a population of about one million.

Inspired by protests that toppled autocratic regimes in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, Libya has been rocked by protests and fighting for the past month which have left hundreds dead and cut production in the nation with Africa’s largest oil reserves.

Drones, Weapons

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to reporters during a visit to Tunisia, said options being considered against Qaddafi’s forces include use of drones and arming rebel forces.

“It is important to recognize that military experts across the world know that a no-fly zone requires certain actions to be taken to protect the planes and the pilots, including bombing targets like the air defense systems,” Clinton said.

Libyan Deputy Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi said five Arab nations have agreed to contribute to the no-fly zone, and diplomats said that group would include Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The resolution was amended yesterday at U.S. urging to strengthen the authority for international military intervention to halt attacks by air, land and sea forces loyal to Qaddafi. The U.S. had been reticent to implement a no-fly zone -- strongly advocated by France and the U.K. -- out of concern for its potential effectiveness and being drawn into the conflict.

‘Serious Escalation’

“We are talking very serious escalation,” David Hartwell, Middle East analyst for the London-based IHS Global Insight, a political and economic forecaster, said in an interview. “If Qaddafi’s forces are moving as quickly as he says, which there is reason to doubt, the U.S., NATO and a few others will have to start acting in the next 48 hours.”

The measure also calls on nations to intercept ships or planes suspected of carrying arms or mercenaries to Libya, and freezes the foreign assets of seven government officials and five entities. The list includes the Central Bank of Libya, Libyan National Oil Corp., the nation’s defense minister and three of Qaddafi’s sons.

The outcome of the war is “still in doubt,” Mohammed El- Katiri, analyst with the New York-based risk consultant Eurasia Group said in an interview. “We might see a counterproductive measure, with people coming to the side of Qaddafi against foreign intervention. And it is very difficult to predict how Qaddafi will deal with this.”

Arab Nations

The draft resolution emphasizes the need to notify the Arab League of military actions against Qaddafi forces and the “important role” of Arab nations in implementing the no-fly zone.

Lebanon’s ambassador to the UN, Nawaf Salam, said a “number” of Arab countries are committed to help enforce the no-fly zone and that “significant participation has been confirmed from the highest political authorities.”

Libya’s oil output slumped to a “trickle” by last week, according to the International Energy Agency. The conflict, which has left hundreds dead, has helped push up Brent crude prices by about 20 percent this year. Libya’s crude exports may be halted for “many months” because of damage to oil facilities and international sanctions, the IEA said this week.

Arab Support

Clinton, at the town hall session in Tunisia, said the U.S. wants to make clear that any military action has international support, including from Arab nations.

“We don’t want to get into the position where people question why we do what we do” Clinton said. “When we act, we want to act with international partners, we want very much to have Arab leadership and participation.”

Clinton discussed the resolution today with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron spoke with Arab, African and European leaders to seek support for a no-fly zone, his office said in an e-mailed statement today.

“In all his calls, the prime minister has made the case for strong action by the UN Security Council to increase the pressure on Qaddafi and put a stop to the campaign he is waging against the Libyan people,” Cameron’s office said.

Editor's Note: See "Lugar Warns No-Fly Zone in Libya an Act of War"

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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