The International Community fails to show courage on Libyan bloodshed

Ahram Online and Reuters, Sunday 20 Feb 2011

The brutal crackdown against protesters by the Libyan government elicits only a cursory response from foreign leaders

Reactions to the unrest in Libya by the International Community may be described as tentative and guarded in proportion to the amount of violence reported against protesters so far.

Most notable was the statement by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday, in which he expressed that he did not want to "bother" Libya's President Muammer Gaddafi.

"I haven't heard from him," was Berlusconi's answer when asked about any recent contact with Gaddafi.

Berlusconi's comments were attacked by Italian opposition, accusing the prime minister of supporting Gaddafi in committing massacres and criticizing the failure of the Italian government to condemn the violence in Libya.

International attention towards the Libyan situation falls short of serious efforts at stopping the ongoing systematic bloodshed.

Announcements by officials are mostly expressing concern for the situation and pushing for restraint as well as calling for dialogue between parties.

On Friday, United States President Barak Obama said that "the United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people."

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton followed suit on Saturday, calling for dialogue in Bahrain "without delay", saying she was "deeply concerned" about the violence.

Turkey's took an even more passive stance, stating only that it is monitoring the situation.

On the other hand, while Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague also condemned the violence against peaceful protesters in the Middle East, the UK revoked over 50 licenses for arms exporting to Libya and Bahrain.

Hague's condemnatory statement was noticeably harsher than those by others.

"I condemn the violence in Libya, including reports of the use of heavy weapons fire and a unit of snipers against demonstrators," Hague said. "This is clearly unacceptable and horrifying."

On Sunday, Hague called on global leaders to speak out against Libya's crackdown on anti-government demonstrators.

"The world should not hesitate to condemn those actions," Hague told Sky News.

"What Colonel Gaddafi should be doing is respecting basic human rights and there is no sign of that in the dreadful response, the horrifying response, of the Libyan authorities to these protests."

Hague said he did not want to get drawn into the question of the future of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

"We don't try to choose who is running individual countries," he said.

The reactions span over four days of continuous demonstrations in Libya calling for the end of Gaddafi's 42 year rule.

Clashes were concentrated in the east around the city of Benghazi, where police and mercenary militias clashed with unarmed protesters in violent skirmishes that have seen at least 100 slain.

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