Libya conflict: Nato summit fails to secure new planes


Nato's Anders Fogh Rasmussen: "Gaddafi will continue to attack his own population"

A Nato meeting of foreign ministers on Libya has ended without a commitment from allies to send more strike planes.

Neither the US nor Italy have indicated they will respond to calls to join ground attacks.

Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the threat to Libyan civilians would not disappear while Col Muammar Gaddafi was still in power.

Reports suggest pro-Gaddafi forces have been using cluster bombs against the rebel-held city of Misrata.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said its officials had seen the internationally banned munitions - which are dangerous to civilians because they scatter small bomblets over a wide area - fired in residential areas of the western city.

A Libyan government spokesman denied the reports.

United front

Nato pilots are enforcing the current UN resolution to establish a no-fly zone and to protect civilians in Libya, which has effectively been split between forces for and against Col Gaddafi since a revolt against his rule began in mid-February.

The current UN resolution makes no mention of regime change, but an open letter by the US, UK and French leaders on Friday said there could be no peace while Col Gaddafi was in power.

At the Berlin conference, Mr Fogh Rasmussen said there were indications that allies would provide extra strike aircraft needed for the operation in Libya.

At the Nato conference

Nato says it is united but the alliance has not so far broken the military deadlock in Libya. Its leaders insist many thousands of lives have been saved by air attacks on Col Gaddafi's forces, but the evidence from Misrata of the scale of civilian casualties exposes the limits of air power.

The US, UK and France - the dominant military powers in Nato - are hardening their political position, insisting the aim of the bombing is not regime change but equally that it won't stop until the Libyan leader is gone.

But with the UK and France supplying most of the attack aircraft it's proving very hard to persuade others to get actively involved. Spain, Italy and the Netherlands have all been lent on; all have refused.

France's defence minister has also made remarks implying a further UN resolution could be needed. But that's not the view of his president or the leaders of the UK and US who are determined to push Col Gaddafi from power.

"We have got indications that nations will deliver what is needed... I'm hopeful that we will get the necessary assets in the very near future," he said.

But although US President Barack Obama said the US and Nato had averted "wholesale slaughter" with their campaign, he added that despite a military stalemate in Libya, there was no need for greater US participation in enforcing the UN-mandated no-fly zone.

Italy - which is thought to have been identified as a key potential contributor - also seemed to rule out ordering its aircraft to open fire.

Rome has made air bases available for Nato forces, but the eight aircraft it has supplied to the effort are only being used for reconnaissance and monitoring.

"The current line being followed by Italy is the right one and we are not thinking about changing our contribution to the military operations in Libya," Reuters reported Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa as telling reporters in Rome.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested Nato was exceeding its UN mandate, and called for an immediate shift in its policy.

"We believe it is important to urgently transfer things into the political course and proceed with a political and diplomatic settlement," he told a Berlin press conference.

Only a few of Nato's 28 members - including France, the UK, Canada, Belgium, Norway and Denmark - are conducting air strikes.

In their open letter published earlier on Friday, Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy said Nato must maintain military operations to protect civilians and maintain pressure on Col Gaddafi.

To allow him to remain in power would "betray" the Libyan people, they wrote.

Inside the crowded Misrata hospital

The letter from the three leaders, published in the UK's Times newspaper as well as the International Herald Tribune and France's Le Figaro, was an attempt to show a united front against Col Gaddafi.

In an interview later with Associated Press, the US president said Col Gaddafi was "getting squeezed in all different kinds of ways", and was running out of money and supplies.

Libyan rebel fighters riding pick-up trucks by the western gate of Ajdabiya, Libya, 15 April 2011 While politicians debated the way forward, fighting on the ground and Nato bombing missions continued

But French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet suggested a new UN Security Council resolution would be needed for Nato allies to achieve their goals in Libya.

Speaking on French radio, Mr Longuet conceded that ousting Col Gaddafi would be "certainly" beyond the scope of the existing UN Security Council Resolution 1973 on Libya, and could require a new council vote.

"Beyond resolution 1973, certainly it didn't mention the future of Gaddafi but I think that three major countries saying the same thing is important to the United Nations and perhaps one day the Security Council will adopt a resolution."

Rebels holding out

While politicians debated the way forward, fighting on the ground and Nato bombing missions have continued.

Libyan state TV reported Nato air strikes had hit the cities of Sirte - Col Gaddafi's birthplace - and Aziziya, south of the capital Tripoli.

There were also reports of rocket strikes by pro-Gaddafi forces on the western rebel-held city of Misrata, as well as cluster bomb attacks on the city.

Steve Goose, HRW's arms division director, said it was appalling that Libya was using the munitions in residential areas.

The bombs, which have been banned under the terms of an international convention since last August, generally leave large numbers of unexploded submunitions on the ground, where they continue to pose a risk to civilians, especially children.

HRW researchers said they had retrieved fragments of a Spanish-made 120mm-mortar projectile, which opens in mid-air and releases releases 21 submunitions over a wide area.

Spanish officials have yet to comment on these reports. Spain ratified the convention against cluster munitions two years ago, but the fragments found in Misrata were apparently produced in 2007.

Rebels in Misrata have been holding out against attacks for two months, but UK Foreign Secretary William Hague stressed that Nato needed to act swiftly to prevent a "massacre" in the city.

He said Nato had been constrained by the need to avoid civilian casualties but had probably prevented the city from being overrun by Col Gaddafi's forces.

The BBC's Orla Guerin in Misrata said staff at a hospital there were battling to treat civilians injured by mortars and rocket fire.


More on This Story

Libya after Gaddafi

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  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Any NATO member unwilling to commit to this in its entirety should be removed from membership immediately. "You can have my planes, but they can't shoot" is a load of manure. Italy should be ashamed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Why are we interefering in somebody else's civil war? I assume it comes down to OIL. We don't know whether Gaddaffi or the rebel side is committing worse atrocities? What kind of regime will replace Gaddaffis? An Al qaeda backed rebel regime may be an even more oppressive regime. Have we not learned anything from invading Iraq? How much are spending in this war in a time of austerity and cutbacks?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    If US, France & UK demand regime change. Russia & China should Veto. South Africa Nigeria & Brazil vote against.
    Rebels are weak and don't represent all Libyans.Needed is a comprehensive solution with all parties through a non biased UN initiative to lead to regime change eventually.A military victory alone will usher in a Libya to be exploited by other gulf states & allies but still no peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    We all know the script we've seen it so many times before, and here it is playing out again. Just another western invasion of a sovereign nation, with the usual excuses. Regime change, Regime change, Regime change.

    Why does the BBC bother reporting on it? Just say "yeh we're doing over another one" and we'll get the picture. All the nonsense propoganda is wearing more than a little thin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Correct me if Im wrong, It seems there is a huge population who support Gadafi too. So what if rebels go and kill them,Arent they Civilains.

    This is just a simple case of US,UK want Gadafi out,And of course the oil.
    And also how on earth these Rebels have all these weapons, hmmm any suggestions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    When will we ever learn. A western country cannot intervene in the internal affairs of a Muslim state. You will not get cooperation or approval from other Muslim states - look at the lack of enthusiasm and unwillingness to get involved by Libya's arab neighbours. Also, eventually the population of the country will turn against you and describe you as "crusaders".

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Personally i believe that if the stance was to get rid of gaddafi or to save civillian lives. surely they would have provided Gaddafi a safe haven and save the life of millions of people who are affected. there is more in play that meets the eye and i do understand that people need to be brought to justice but that doesnt mean that More people should suffer and die for this reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    promodsharma< I totally agree with you, Its all because of the black Gold< Petroleum, Oil,< when in History have we heard Col Gaddafi, has massacre his people, but the goverment wants to make it look like he is MR Bad Ass so the People can support them, The US has enough problems as is, stop interfering with other countries, you are not World Police. another example, Private Manning being torture

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Nato has no backbone as such. We can see the typically "don't involve me" attitude of certain nations who prefer to be part of an organization without really putting in 100% until the day they need help ............. true colours are apparent in the case of the present crisis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    4. Marchelo

    Perhaps you should look again at the meaning of the word 'genocide' I'm sure you'll find that it doesn't apply here. Perhaps you can call it a massacre but what I do object to is people using sloppy and emotive language in order to generate feelings for and against a particular action

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Britain,along with it's allies have been sucked into a war on so called humanitarian grounds...However, moving to regime change is illegal under the UN and their interpretation of Security Council Resolution 1973 has been extremely loose...How is protecting civilians achieved by arming one side if the "rebels" truly are civilians and not al-quaeda mercenaries?..This war has no legitimacy anymore!

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Its ironic that the French are talking about a new resolution, when it is almost certain the Russians or Chinese will block it, if it calls for Regime change. Methinks a bit of lipservice

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Why don't these allied countries interfere in the Genocide of the DR Congo where just about 5 million people have been killed since 1998 and still continues, because these allies see no gain from it, The US itself as killed over 10,000 people during the afghan war using drone attacks, and the military says "We are Sorry". Russia & China should interfere with US, France, UK using military force

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.


    Why not Bahrain? I hate people who make stupid remarks like that. Hypocrisy is an argument for doing more, not less.

    The reason why not bahrain is because military action should always be a last resort. We reckon that we can stop the killing there through negotiation, which is always better than military action, so we try that first.

    Please explain why we should let the people of libya die?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    The way I look at it is NATO allies are stretched right now with their own problems. Where were all the Libyan people years ago? Supporting their insane leader? Lets see everyone out on the street protesting... where are they now? If they want freedom, then it needs to be more than just the rebels out there fighting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Someone should ask the holier than thou anti-war brigade to send their children into Misrata and then see how fast they call it 'imperialism' when NATO comes to their rescue.

    Innocent people are dying every day. Every hour that we allow people to complain about the technicalities/legality of acting we are letting more people be murdered. Why is Col. Gaddaffis life protected by law but theirs not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    If Libya why not Bahrain?

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I am strongly arguing UN Security Council, US, UK and French Leaders to open their eyes to the situation in Libya otherwise Col. Muammar Gaddafi will be like Saddam Has-sen, Shame on Col. Muammar Gaddafi for committing genocide to his own Brothers and sisters of Libya. if Nato is strong enough to help the civilian then they have to bring Col. Muammar Gaddafi to ICC like Saddam of Iraq.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Nato must do faster and usa,france,Uk. must send military in the ground to protect civilien If we wait for label stop Gaddafi maybe 1 year never stop them.if we do faster and stop!!we can save alot of life and stop goverment kill their own people.that the best way!!!


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