UK, France, Gulf states seek no-fly zone over Libya


RAS LANUF – Britain, France and Gulf states on Monday said they were seeking UN authority for a no-fly zone over Libya, as Muammar Gaddafi’s warplanes counter-attacked against rebels and aid officials said a million people were in need.
Rebels swiftly rejected an olive branch offered by an associate of Gaddafi, and fighting escalated around one of the country’s key oil ports. The ageing autocrat warned that if he fell thousands of refugees would “invade Europe”. With civilians surrounded by forces loyal to Gaddafi in two towns, Misrata and Zawiyah, in the western part of Libya, fears were growing of a rising humanitarian crisis inside the country if the fighting was not stopped.
“We are working closely with partners on a contingency basis on elements of a resolution on a no-fly zone, making clear the need for regional support, a clear trigger for such a resolution and an appropriate legal basis,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday. A French diplomatic source said France was “working with our partners in New York on a no-fly zone resolution”.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, visiting Afghanistan where foreign forces have been fighting for a decade, cautioned any action in Libya “should be the result of international sanction”. The White House said all options were on the table, including arming rebels. Russia said it opposed foreign military intervention. “The Libyans have to solve their problems by themselves,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stressed the need for UN authorisation. “I can’t imagine the international community and the United Nations would stand idly by if Gaddafi and his regime continue to attack their own people,” he said. In the rebel-held city of Misrata, the wounded were being treated on hospital floors because of a catastrophic shortage of medical facilities in the besieged city, a resident said.
In the east, warplanes launched air strikes on the rebel-held oil terminal town of Ras Lanuf 600km east of the capital Tripoli, witnesses said. One ripped through a car carrying a family. In Geneva, UN aid coordinator Valerie Amos said more than a million people fleeing Libya and inside the country need humanitarian aid.
“Humanitarian organisations need urgent access now,” said Amos. “People are injured and dying and need help immediately.” The rebels have called for UN-backed air strikes against what they say are African soldiers-for-hire used by Gaddafi to crush the uprising against his four-decade rule.
The army was moving down the coastal road east of the recaptured town of Bin Jawad, heading towards Ras Lanuf about 60km away, witnesses told Reuters. US President Barack Obama delivered a new warning to loyalists around Gaddafi who will be “held accountable” for violence raging amid a rebel uprising, while six Gulf Arab states appealed to the UN Security Council to protect civilians in Libya.
Also, NATO launched a 24-hour air surveillance of Libya with AWACS reconnaissance aircraft as the military alliance plans potential future steps to address Libya’s violent unrest, the US ambassador to NATO said.