Middle-East

International Pressure Mounting on Libya’s Gaddafi

Beijing (Xinhua) — Some foreign governments and international organizations heaped more pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on March 3, as Russia warned of a civil war in this Northern African country.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday called on Gaddafi to step down, while stressing that his administration is examining the “full range” of options, including the imposition of a no-fly zone.

“We are looking at every option that’s out there, in addition to the non-military actions that we’ve taken. I want to make sure that those full ranges of options are available to me,” he said in the White House at a news conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Obama added he has greenlighted the use of U.S. military aircraft to assist the exodus of foreign nationals from Libya and dispatched U.S. teams to the Libyan border to help coordinate humanitarian efforts.

“And we are doing that not just here in the United States within our own agencies, but we’re also doing it in consultation with NATO,” he said.

Meanwhile, France and Britain have agreed to increase the pressure on Gaddafi to force him to cede power, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in Paris after talks with his British counterpart William Hague.

“We also agreed the international community including us and other partners will continue to plan for different contingencies, including a no-fly zone, to ensure that we can respond swiftly and resolutely to the events in Libya,” Hague said.

Imposing a no-fly zone is “a responsible thing to do” as such a measure would prevent the Libyan government from bombing its civilian opponents from the air, he added.

The two ministers also called for “bold and ambitious measures” to be meted out at an extraordinary session of the European Council slated for next week to explore “approaches to the Middle East and North Africa.”

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle of Germany, another leading European power, also urged the international community to impose “well-targeted” sanctions on Libya and halt cooperation with Gaddafi.

The punitive measures should put pressure on Gaddafi and force him to step down while not casting a bad effect on the Libyan people, he said at a meeting of central and eastern European foreign ministers in Slovakia.

Cautions and Warnings

Amid calls for more pressure, the United States and some of its allies have also been mobilizing forces to the vicinity of Libya. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday that the alliance is mulling plans to cover “all eventualities.”

Yet regarding military intervention, cautions and warnings are heard from across the international community, including the European troika and the United States.

“Actually, implementing anything like a no-fly zone must be legal, and must be strongly supported internationally, with participation of many different countries,” Hague said.

Juppe, for his part, stressed that Western countries cannot implement the decision on their own because a support from “regional governments” is also needed.

The French foreign minister stressed earlier this week that only the UN Security Council has the right to decide whether and how to intervene, including whether to slap a no-fly zone.

Their cautions echoed the reservations of U.S. decision-makers. Obama said that his administration is making its decisions on the Libya issue “in consultation with the international community.”

U.S. Defense Minister Robert Gates on Wednesday laid bare the fact that “a no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that her country is “a long way from making that decision.”

Westerwelle expressed explicit opposition to military intervention. “We do not participate, and we do not share the discussion of a military intervention because we think this would be very counterproductive,” he said.

Many other countries, including NATO member Turkey, have rejected the military option. The Arab League has also voiced objection to foreign military intervention, but said it would consider imposing a no-fly zone over Libya in cooperation with the African Union.

China hopes that all sectors of Libya can work together to solve the current crisis and restore order in a peaceful way as soon as possible, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu on Thursday.

She said that any approach should follow three principles, namely to respect Libya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, to seek peaceful solutions and to take the opinions of Arabian and African nations fully into account.

Growing Isolation

Inside Libya, government forces and anti-government rebels clashed on March 3 in the town of Brega, some 200 km southwest of the main eastern city of Benghazi.

The opposition, which has taken de facto control of Libya’s oil-rich east, has formed a self-declared National Libyan Council and demanded Gaddafi’s ouster or exile as a precondition for talks.

In a stark warning over the Libya crisis, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday that the Northern African country is on the verge of a civil war.

“This is an extreme situation… During such events, there is usually a complete disorganization in the management of the state. And this is what we are seeing,” he was quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency as saying at a meeting with Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu.

In an effort to help end the unrest, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has put forward a plan designed to peacefully solve the crisis. Venezuela said Thursday that Gaddafi supports the proposal. The Arab League said that the plan is under consideration.

However, Libyan rebels have reportedly rejected the plan as being “too late,” and the United States and some other countries have also dubbed it a wrong approach.

Against the gloomy backdrop, Libya is also facing growing isolation, with a number of countries and international organizations having suspended their diplomatic presence in and cooperation with the country.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague said Thursday that it will investigate Gaddafi and his closest allies for alleged crimes committed during the recent unrest.

Leaders of opposition groups could also be investigated if they also committed crimes, said Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, adding that “no one has authority to attack and massacre civilians.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that he will soon appoint a special envoy to Libya.

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