Libya crisis will not end in stalemate - William Hague

 

William Hague says no immunity deal has been made with ex-Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa.

The military intervention in Libya will not end in a stalemate, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.

He said Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime had no future because it was isolated and "can't sell any oil".

Fighting has resumed in Libya, with rebel forces battling for control of the eastern oil town of Brega.

Earlier, a poll for BBC News suggested that two-thirds of people believed Britain's military involvement in Libya would go on for some time.

Of 2,000 people asked, 65% said the UK's involvement in Libya "will last for some time", while just 14% chose the option "will be over pretty quickly", and 20% did not know.

Coalition forces have been attacking targets in Libya for two weeks, under a UN resolution which authorises military strikes to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone.

The action followed protests against Col Gaddafi's 42-year-long rule, which began peacefully but soon escalated into violent confrontation.

Asked on the Andrew Marr show on BBC One about the danger of a military stalemate between pro-Gaddafi forces and rebels, Mr Hague said there was no future for Libya under its current leadership.

"Let's be clear, if the Libyan regime tries to hang on in this situation, they are internationally isolated, they can't sell any oil," he said.

"There is no future for Libya on that basis, and so I think even the prospect of stalemate should encourage people in Tripoli to think, 'Well, Col Gaddafi has now got to go.'"

'No large-scale ground force'

Mr Hague denied a newspaper report that 600 Royal Marines were being prepared to go to Libya. He said those forces were, in fact, preparing for an exercise elsewhere.

Mr Hague added that it was "quite clear" there will be "no large-scale ground force placed in Libya".

He said that small groups of special forces could be used, as had been done previously to rescue British nationals stranded in the desert a few weeks ago.

RAF Tornado aircraft taking off British aircraft have been helping to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya for two weeks

The former Democratic US presidential candidate and Congressman Dennis Kucinich told Andrew Marr that the situation in Libya would become either a "stalemate or a bloodbath".

He claimed the US had exceeded the mandate provided by the United Nations "by not just going after Col Gaddafi's troops but providing cover for the rebels".

But the foreign secretary insisted the UN resolution was being followed "very closely".

He said neither the UK nor its allies had any plans to arm rebel groups, but he did not rule it out and said there was "a little bit of ambiguity in the UN resolutions" on the arms embargo.

"We are clear they apply to the whole of Libya but they also seem to give some scope, in certain circumstances, to help people to be able to defend themselves".

A UK diplomatic team arrived in Libya on Saturday to forge links with the forces opposed to Col Gaddafi, the Foreign Office has revealed.

Lockerbie questions

Meanwhile, the former Libyan foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, is continuing to be questioned by intelligence and diplomatic officials in the UK.

Start Quote

It is extremely important that Mr Koussa is properly questioned about Lockerbie, but also what happened to Pc Yvonne Fletcher and her murder”

End Quote Yvette Cooper Shadow home secretary

He arrived on Wednesday saying he had fled from Col Gaddafi's regime, as he was no longer willing to represent it.

Mr Hague said Mr Koussa was not under arrest, but that he was in a secure location.

"There will be no immunity, he hasn't asked for that, there isn't a deal," he said.

"He chose to come to the United Kingdom of his own free will. That is a good thing that he has left this despotic, murderous regime, because it weakens that regime."

Scottish police and prosecutors want to talk to Mr Koussa about the 1988 Lockerbie bombing in which 270 people died, and they will meet Foreign Office officials on Monday for talks.

In the 1980s Mr Koussa was a leading member of the Libyan Bureau for External Security (the Mathaba) which has been linked to the Lockerbie attack.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said he could not say what would result from the questioning of Mr Koussa over Lockerbie, but added: "Suffice to say the Scottish government will give the full support to our police and prosecuting authorities in whatever steps and whatever actions they take."

Moussa Koussa Prosecutors in Scotland want to speak to Moussa Koussa in connection with the Lockerbie bombing

He told BBC News: "There are matters outstanding that cause a great deal of grief, not simply to relatives in the United States but to relatives here.

"They want questions answered and I give them the absolute assurance that the police and the prosecution authorities in Scotland are doing everything they can. The file was never closed."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said there should be no immunity for Mr Koussa.

"I think it is extremely important that he is properly questioned both about the events around Lockerbie, but also about what happened to Pc Yvonne Fletcher and her murder some years before as well."

'Strong support'

The online poll of 2,011 respondents was conducted by ICM on 30-31 March for Broadcasting House on BBC Radio 4.

Some 38% of people thought the UK and its allies were right to carry out air strikes, while 35% said it was the wrong decision.

A government spokesman said: "The decision on British military involvement in Libya was taken by the entire cabinet, in consultation with the US, France, Arab states and other countries, and with UN backing. It has Parliament's strong support.

"The action is being undertaken to protect the civilian population in Libya. It is necessary, legal and right."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for a swift end to the conflict in Libya, even if that meant granting Col Gaddafi safe haven in another country.

"It's quite clear that in the best of worlds it would be a good thing for us to say you clobber him, capture him and let him stand for trial," he told Andrew Marr.

"But what is the lesser of two evils: to let him have a soft landing and save the lives of as many people as you possibly can."

 

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 96.

    Our government is trying to minimize the bloodshed in Libya-Surely that`s a good thing! Unfortunately our hands are tied:Countries,a lot of whom are also run by dictators or have at least dubious motives,are worried about us doing what is necessary and going after the one running Libya.Our hands are tied.So whatever happens we were always going to be wrong.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 92.

    Libyan's need to learn to fight for and keep democracy, just as many other countries have (eg: UK) over centuries.

    It's the pain, suffering, effort and ultimate success welded into the nations memory that promotes and maintains good values.

    Yes give some help to enable the righteous, but remember it's a mistake to do too much, it could become a rod for our own backs, think of history.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 90.

    If we assume the rebels finally succeed and bring down Gaddaffi then follow that victory up with free and fair democratic elections; what will NATO's, Hague's and the rest of the western world's response be if the new democratically elected government turns out to be an anti-western, Al-Qaeda backed, fundamental Islamist one? Let me guess: more bombing until they vote the way the west wants?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 87.

    Civilian population,who cares about them?Is world after oil or Gaddafi? It is difficult to understand what U.N. wants or Nato wants.Ther seems no honesty in sight.Libyan civilians have to suffer in name of revolution,wanted by who?.Africa or Arab world are not worried.I feed sorry for civilians,only that I can do.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 76.

    We're a Country that (allegedly) can't even pay our bills. We're told we're almost bankrupt. We're laying off hundreds of thousands of people. We can't keep our pensioners warm in the winter. How come we've got money to go to war after´╗┐ war after war in the interests of oil companies and arms companies? Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab League can kill their civilians with impunity.

 

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