Britain wooing Arab states for Libya coalition

AFP , Tuesday 22 Mar 2011

As plans to hand over command of the operation to NATO divides the alliance, Britain is looking for greater Arab participation

Britain is talking to Arab nations in a bid to "develop" the military coalition arrayed against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces, a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday.

Foreign Secretary William Hague briefed the cabinet on efforts to boost the coalition, which is led by the United States, France and Britain and includes some other Western states and Arab country Qatar, said the spokesman.

Asked if there had been any progress on drawing in other Arab countries, he told reporters: "That's something the foreign secretary referred to in cabinet.

"He was talking about continued efforts to develop and maintain that coalition of countries, which was what the prime minister was talking about yesterday (in parliament).

"And I think there is a lot of activity in the Foreign Office to ensure that happens."

The cabinet was "completely unified" behind the military action, he added.

The coalition is acting under a UN Security Council resolution authorising all necessary means to stop Gaddafi's forces harming civilians as they battle the uprising against the Libyan leader's four-decade rule.

There is coordination but no unified command, and moves to hand control of the operation to NATO are dividing the alliance.

France is warning that NATO control could scare off Arab countries while Turkey has ruled out any involvement.

Cameron's spokesman said NATO ambassadors were due to resume talks on Tuesday in Brussels but added that Britain still wanted "to see the machinery of NATO used to coordinate the military operation."

The British premier is, meanwhile, due to meet the visting Saudi Arabian foreign minister in London later Tuesday.

Cameron's spokesman said the Saudis were "supportive" of the military action against Libya but gave no further details.

Meanwhile, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said Tuesday that Western-led air strikes on Gaddafi's forces in Libya were disproportionate and threatened to worsen the crisis.

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