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Libya: Allies to step up military pressure

Reuters/ Eric Feferberg

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) accompanies British Prime Minister David Cameron after a working dinner at the Elysee presidential palace, in Paris. April 13, 2011.

DOHA, Apr 14, 2011

France and Britain have agreed to step up military pressure on Muammar Gaddafi's regime after meeting of world powers in Doha promised Libyan rebels cash and the means to defend themselves.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and David Cameron, the British prime minister, agreed on a heightened military pressure against Gaddafi during a working dinner in Paris on Wednesday, according to a source in the French presidency.

"All means must be made available" in the fight against Gaddafi , the source said.

Ahead of a NATO meeting on Thursday, London and Paris moved to exert more pressure on their allies to help defeat the Libyan regime.

Cameron said he will "leave no stone unturned, militarily, diplomatically, politically, to enforce the UN resolution, to put real pressure on Gaddafi and to stop the appalling murder of civilians that he is still carrying out as you've shown on our television screens in Misurata and elsewhere in Libya".

The NATO meeting was part of a three-pronged push by the international community to find a solution to end the fighting in Libya and halt the growing political impasse.

On Wednesday in Doha, the so-called Libya contact group pledged financial support for rebels.

And on Thursday, international leaders gathered in Cairo to focus on political solutions and look for ways to reinforce co-ordination between the Arab League, the UN and the African Union.

The diplomatic moves come amid rising friction within the alliance over a NATO air campaign in Libya that has so far failed to change the balance of power on the ground.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, who arrived in Berlin for the meetings on Thursday and Friday, issued a statement denouncing what she said were continuing attacks on civilians by Gaddafi's forces.

"In recent days, we have received disturbing reports of renewed atrocities conducted by Gaddafi's forces," she said.

Air strikes criticised

Even as NATO and its allies scrambled to formulate a unified front on Libya, five big emerging powers expressed misgivings about the air strikes against Gaddafi targets and urged an end to the fighting.

The air campaign was one of the issues on the table when the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) met in southern China for a one- day summit on Thursday.

While expressing their concern about Libya, the strength of the leaders' public comments varied, suggesting that they did not emerge from their summit with a firmly united stance.

"We are deeply concerned with the turbulence in the Middle East, the North African and West African regions," the leaders said in a joint statement issued after the summit in the resort of Sanya.

Meanwhile in Tripoli, Khaled Kaim, the Libyan deputy foreign minister, charged that elements of the Lebanese group Hezbollah were fighting alongside the rebels in the east of his country.

He said Qatar had sent military trainers to Libya and was supplying the rebels with French-made Milan anti-tank missiles.

Trust fund for rebels

Mahmud Jibril, who handles foreign policy for the rebels' Transitional National Council, was due in Washington to meet with senior state and defence department officials and congressional leaders. But his trip was cancelled and the talks postponed, US officials said.

In Doha, the international contact group on Libya decided , after a day-long gathering, to set up a "temporary financial mechanism" to aid the rebels seeking to oust Gaddafi.

It "affirmed that Gaddafi's regime has lost all legitimacy and he should leave and allow the Libyan people to decide their future."

While there was a consensus that Gaddafi must go, differences emerged over arming the rebels.

The rebel leadership said in a Tweet: "We're discussing weapons deals with countries that officially recognised the council; we've been getting positive replies."

The meeting's final statement said "participants in the contact group agreed to continue to provide support to the opposition, including material support."

Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, the Qatari prime minister, told reporters the statement refers to "humanitarian means, and also means of defence. And that means that the Libyan people should get the means that they need to defend themselves."

But he seemed to acknowledge that this view was not universally held. He said "people gathered here have different interpretations," while reiterating that "the first thing that the Libyan people need is self-defence".

Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, said "either we make it possible for these people to defend themselves, or we withdraw from our obligation to support defending the population of Libya".

The UN resolution "does not prohibit supplying arms ... for self-defence," Frattini said.

Meanwhile, William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said Britain had been providing non-lethal equipment to the rebels, and would continue to do so.

Belgium expressed opposition to arming the rebels, while Germany insisted that there could be "no military solution".

But Mahmud Shammam, a spokesman for the rebels, indicated that the arms issue does not require consensus.

"If needed, we will request (arms) from countries on a bilateral basis," he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Story from Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera / 14 Apr 2011 05:47


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