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UN Chief: Libya Not Complying with Cease-fire

  • Margaret Besheer

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, March 24, 2011

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, March 24, 2011

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says there is no evidence to support Libyan assertions that it is complying with a cease-fire. In a briefing to the U.N. Security Council Thursday, the U.N. chief said he continues to have serious concerns about the protection of civilians, abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.

Mr. Ban made a brief trip earlier this week to Egypt and Tunisia, where demonstrators brought down each of those government’s long-time leaders. These two countries, neighbors of Libya, have also endured the brunt of an exodus of more than 300,000 people fleeing the recent violence in Libya.

The U.N. chief briefed council members on his trip, as well as on the situation in Libya, where he said the authorities have repeatedly claimed they have instituted a cease-fire. But Mr. Ban said there is no evidence to support that assertion.

"We see no evidence that is the case," said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "To the contrary, fierce battles have continued in or around the cities of Ajdabiya, Misratah and Zitan, among others. In short, there is no evidence that Libyan authorities have taken steps to carry out their obligations under Resolutions 1970 or 1973."

Resolution 1973 was adopted by the U.N. Security Council one week ago and authorized the establishment of a No-Fly Zone in a bid to protect civilians under attack by government troops. The United States, Britain and France quickly began air strikes on Libya’s military air defenses and Gadhafi’s forces. They have since been joined by several other countries, including two Arab states, in enforcing the flight ban and other provisions in the Security Council resolution.

Mr. Ban also appointed a special Envoy for Libya, Abdel-Elah al-Khatib, a former Jordanian foreign minister. He went to Libya last week and met with both government and opposition leaders. Mr. Ban said al-Khatib, as well as representatives of both the Gadhafi government and the opposition, would attend an African Union meeting Friday in Addis Ababa with the goal of reaching a cease-fire and finding a political solution to the crisis.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, French Ambassador Gérard Araud, whose government spearheaded efforts to implement the No-Fly Zone, said efforts so far to enforce Resolution 1973 have been successful.

"As you know, [resolution] 1973 is aiming at the protection of civilians against acts of violence from the Gadhafi regime and so far it has been successful in two ways: first we have avoided massacre in Benghazi and cut short the offensive of the Gadhafi forces. Secondly, the No-Fly Zone is in place; this morning a French fighter jet has destroyed a plane of the Libyan air force," said Araud.

Ambassador Araud said France has deployed a significant air and naval force as part of the effort. But he warned that the Libyan goverment's forces continue to fire on civilians and hinder humanitarian access across most of the country. He urged Mr. Gadhafi to accept a cease-fire immediately and withdraw his forces from all areas they have entered. The French envoy said only then can a political dialogue begin to allow the Libyan people to decide their own future.