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Renewed mission

July 13, 2011

The French parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favor of extending funding for France's military intervention in Libya. Prime Minister Francois Fillon said a political solution was "beginning to take shape."

Rebel fighters in Misrata with binoculars
France led pressure for military intervention in LibyaImage: picture alliance / dpa

French lawmakers have voted to extend military intervention in Libya, after the prime minister said a political solution to end the crisis was evolving.

The National Assembly and Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of extending funding for the NATO-led operation, which began in March.

France spearheaded the military intervention in Libya but is growing impatient with the lack of progress and said this week that it is speaking with envoys of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to push for a diplomatic solution.

"A political solution is more than ever indispensable and is beginning to take shape," Prime Minister Francois Fillon said during the three-hour debate in the lower house of parliament.

The opposition Socialist Party had said it would not oppose the extension, but said it wanted more intensive efforts to secure a political solution.

Libya ready to negotiate

Francois Fillon
Fillon told parliament that a political solution was nearImage: AP

Fillon told parliament the Libyan leader's back was "against the wall" but stressed that the goal was not to eliminate him.

"We have not reached the breaking point yet. But it's now that we need to be firmer than ever. And it's now that the international community must show itself to be unbending," he added.

Meanwhile, Gadhafi's prime minister told a French daily newspaper that the Libyan regime was ready to begin talks with Paris and Libyan rebels.

"We are ready to negotiate unconditionally," Baghdadi al-Mahmudi told France's Le Figaro newspaper. He also called on NATO to halt airstrikes. "We simply want a stop to the bombardments so that one can talk in a serene atmosphere. We cannot talk as bombs rain down."

When the rebels were looking likely to lose their stronghold of Benghazi earlier this year, Western forces led by Britain and France intervened, enforcing a UN mandated no-fly zone. Almost four months on, the military situation has stabilized with much of the country in rebel hands. However, Gadhafi's forces still control the capital, Tripoli, and most western towns.

France has spent some 160 million euros ($228 million) on its operations in Libya, which Fillon said involved 4,400 people, around 800 of which were based in France and the rest on foreign air bases or warships near Libya.

Author: Catherine Bolsover (Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler