Tags: Libya | Diplomacy

World Leaders Gather in Critical Libya Talks

Saturday, 19 Mar 2011 09:12 AM

 

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PARIS (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Prime Minister David Cameron have arrived for talks with France's president ahead of a multi-nation summit over the crisis in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya.

Clinton and Cameron were meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy as Gadhafi's forces swarmed into the one-time rebel stronghold of Benghazi — apparently ignoring an announced cease-fire by Gadhafi's regime.

The Saturday meeting took shape further shortly before it was to begin: The African Union was not attending, as had previously been expected, while the Iraqi foreign minister was among those announced as late participants.

French officials have said that they expect military action could begin within hours after the meeting — but the outcome remained uncertain and it was not clear what effect developments on the ground might have.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PARIS (AP) — Leaders from the Arab world, the United States and other Western powers are holding urgent talks in Paris Saturday over possible military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

France's ambassador to the United Nations, Gerard Araud, told BBC Newsnight that he expected military action to begin within hours of the meeting, which follows a U.N. Security Council resolution that authorizes the international community to act to defend civilians in Libya.

France is hosting the hastily organized summit in response to the onslaught by Gadhafi's artillery, warplanes and tanks against rebel-controlled areas. France, with Britain, was among the leading voices behind a muscular U.N. Security Council resolution against Libya adopted Thursday.

Meanwhile NATO's top decision-making body was meeting in emergency session to review military plans for a no-fly zone over Libya.

The North Atlantic Council is expected to issue the order to launch the operation in coming days. Officials said the military staff was putting the final touches on plans to deploy dozens of fighter-bombers, tankers, helicopters and surveillance planes to several air bases along Europe's southern rim.

The consultations were adjourned soon after they started to await the results of the summit in Paris.

Moammar Gadhafi's government declared a cease-fire Friday in an attempt to outmaneuver Western military intervention, but witnesses said shells were raining down well after the announcement. Early Saturday, a plane was shot down over the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to host leaders including Angela Merkel of Germany and Britain's David Cameron, as well as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon are also expected, along with the Qatari emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, and the Saudi and Emirates foreign ministers.

Sarkozy, Clinton and Cameron were scheduled to hold trilateral talks before and after the summit.

On Friday, Britain and France took the lead in plans to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. Paris said it was ready for possible military action, without specifying, while Britain ordered warplanes to the Mediterranean.

"The clock is ticking and we must be ready to act quickly," Cameron said Friday, adding that Gadhafi must prove he was serious about a cease-fire to avoid military strikes.

With Libya insisting it is holding to the cease-fire, and the United States keeping quiet about its own military role, questions remain about when any action will come — and what its consequences would be.

In a joint statement to Gadhafi late Friday, the United States, Britain and France — backed by unspecified Arab countries — said a cease-fire must begin "immediately" in Libya, the French presidential palace said.

The statement called on Gadhafi to end his troops' advance toward Benghazi, and pull them out of Misrata, Adjadbiya and Zawiya, and called for the restoration of water, electricity and gas services in all areas. It said Libya's population must be able to receive humanitarian aid.

NATO leaders met Friday to work out the details of a flight ban over Libya, after the U.N. Security Council gave the international community the surprisingly wide mandate to defend civilians under attack by loyalist forces.

The United States has a host of forces and ships in the area, including submarines, destroyers, amphibious assault and landing ships. U.S. officials have not specified the possible American role — although Obama said Friday that no U.S. ground troops would be involved.

NATO surveillance AWACS planes flying off the Libyan coast are already providing 24-hour coverage of the situation in the air and on the battlefields. Analysts said no-fly zone aircraft would be flying from NATO bases such as in Sigonella, Sicily, Aviano in northern Italy, Istres in southern France, and Ventiseri-Solenzara in Corsica.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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