News / Africa

UN Security Council Reviewing Libya No Fly Zone Proposal

Margaret Besheer

As forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi ramped up their offensive against opposition strongholds Tuesday, diplomats from Lebanon, France and Britain presented the U.N. Security Council with a resolution that includes authorization of a No-Fly Zone over Libya.

On Saturday the Arab League called on U.N.’s most powerful body to authorize a No-Fly Zone over Libya to protect civilians caught in the weeks-old battle between government and rebel forces. On Tuesday, that request was formally taken up in the Security Council, as a draft resolution was circulated among the 15 members.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said after the closed-door session that there was a good response from other council members to the draft text. He said they expressed urgency about the deteriorating situation on the ground and the need for the Security Council to take rapid action.

But there has also been division within the Council on a No-Fly Zone and the British ambassador acknowledged that some members still have questions. "A lot of questions were asked, particularly about the implementation of a No-Fly Zone - who would be participating and how it would work and questions like that, perfectly reasonably questions. And obviously we will be going through all that in more detail tomorrow," he said.

The draft includes a ban on all flights in Libyan airspace in order to help protect civilians, but it does make exceptions to allow humanitarian aid flights.

Additionally, it calls for strict implementation of the arms embargo adopted in Resolution 1970 two weeks ago, as well as measures to prevent foreign mercenaries from entering Libya. The resolution also seeks to expand the list of individuals and entities subject to an asset freeze and travel ban imposed in resolution 1970.

Lebanese Ambassador Nawaf Salam said his delegation worked with their counterparts at Libya’s U.N. mission to prepare the part of the resolution dealing with the No-Fly Zone, and had asked them to identify specific towns and regions that would need safe passage and protection. The diplomats at Libya’s U.N. mission have defected over the past few weeks from the Gadhafi camp.

France’s Ambassador Gerard Araud said his government’s goal remains the speedy authorization of a No-Fly Zone. While Germany’s Ambassador, Peter Wittig, said he raised questions he felt were not fully answered, including whether Arabs would participate in such a mission.

Asked whether authorization of No-Fly Zone at this point would be too late to be effective for opposition forces, Lebanon’s ambassador said "nothing is too late, but it may not be enough."

The council will reconvene Wednesday morning to begin negotiations of the text, after having the evening to go back to their capitals for instructions.

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