G8 drops plans for Libya military intervention

AFP , Tuesday 15 Mar 2011

France and Britain fail in convincing other G8 members of need for military intervention in Libya, including imposing no-fly zone

France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe (3rd R) attends the G8 Ministers' Meeting in Paris Tuesday, (Reuters).

Group of Eight powers Tuesday dropped proposals for military intervention to end bombardments in Libya and turned to the United Nations to up the pressure on strongman Moamer Kadhafi, including by economic means.

A drive by France and Britain to impose a no-fly zone over Libya failed to win round the United States, Russia and other European Union powers, and the G8 power bloc kicked the problem back to the UN Security Council.

G8 foreign ministers "agreed that the UN Security Council should increase the pressure, including through economic measures, for Moamer Kadhafi to leave," said the French minister Alain Juppe, with no reference to military measures.

"Ministers called on Moamer Khadhafi to respect the legitimate claim of the Libyan people to fundamental rights, freedom of expression and a representative form of government," said Juppe, host of the talks in Paris, reading a statement.

The statement welcomed measures under way at the UN Security Council "as a matter of urgency" to protect Libyans from the fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Kadhafi.

Juppe earlier said Kadhafi was outgunning Libya's rebels, whom the leader of four decades has driven out of several towns with shelling and airstrikes.

France and Britain wanted a no-fly zone to ground Libyan warplanes and France had even talked of targeted air strikes against Kadhafi's strategic sites.

"For the moment I have not convinced them," Juppe said on Europe 1 radio earlier, after trying to rally G8 support at a dinner on Monday night.

"Kadhafi is scoring points," Juppe said. "We have perhaps missed a chance to restore the balance," he added, judging that there was nothing to stop Kadhafi seizing the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

In a no-fly zone, US and NATO warplanes would ground Kadhafi's air power to protect civilians and the opposition -- but would likely need hundreds of planes to police the skies over Libya's vast territory.

The plan was backed by the 22-nation Arab League, considered crucial for dealing with the region.

Britain and France, which are drafting a resolution for the Security Council, failed to convince their European Union partners and permanent Security Council members Russia and the United States.

China, the only veto-wielding member of the Security Council not represented at the Paris G8 talks, also opposed a no-fly zone.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague stressed that the G8 was not the right forum for taking a decision, which should be up to the United Nations.

"There is a need for further measures... to respond to the call from the Arab League for measures to protect the civil population in Libya. How we do that is going to require further discussion at the UN Security Council," he said.

"The G8 is not the decision-making body. Of course it is an important forum, but it is not the decision-making body."

The Libyan opposition national council's representative Mahmoud Jibril and his delegation have been seeking formal support abroad and a no-fly zone.

France has taken the lead in formally recognising the council as Libya's legitimate representatives. The United States and the European Union have hesitated to formally recognise them, seeking to know more about them first.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a 45-minute "private and candid" conversation with Jibril about how Washington could support the opposition against Kadhafi, her top aide Philippe Reines told reporters.

She stopped short of agreeing to Jibril's request to supply the weapons with arms to fight Kadhafi's forces, said an official who asked not to be named.

A senior US official later said the United States had named as its special envoy to the council Chris Stevens, previously its deputy chief of mission in Tripoli.

"The intention is for him to go to Benghazi," a senior administration official told reporters.

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