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Military action

March 4, 2011

Amid fresh raids on rebel strongholds, Britain and France are ready to push for a no-fly zone if attacks by Gadhafi's troops against his own people continue. But Germany opposes any foreign military intervention.

Libyan rebels fire in the air during a mass funeral in Ajdabiya, eastern Libya
Rebels have faced renewed attacks from Gadhafi loyalistsImage: AP

The French and British foreign ministers told Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Thursday they would press for the imposition of a no-fly zone if attacks against his country's citizens continued.

Rebels, who control large swathes of the country, have called for foreign air strikes against what they said were foreign mercenaries fighting for Gadhafi.

The Anglo-French warning came after talks in Paris between French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and his British counterpart, William Hague. Britain and France want Gadhafi to stand down and were working on "bold and ambitious" proposals to put to a European Union leaders' meeting on Libya next week, the two ministers told reporters.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said his country is considering plans for a military no-fly zone. France's Juppe said such an option could and should be considered but only if it was endorsed by a UN Security Council decision.

Guido Westerwelle
Westerwelle said military intervention in Libya would be 'counterproductive'Image: AP

"France, for its part, does not think that in the current circumstances military intervention, NATO forces, would be welcomed in the south of the Mediterranean and could be counterproductive," Juppe said.

"That said, given the threats from Colonel Gadhafi, we have to be in a position to react and that is why we agreed to plans for a no-fly zone over Libya," he added.

Berlin rejects foreign military intervention

Meanwhile, Germany is against any foreign military intervention in Libya, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Thursday.

"We do not participate, and we do not share a discussion of military intervention, because we think this would be very counterproductive," Westerwelle said at a meeting of central European foreign ministers in Slovakia.

"We want to see the (Gadhafi) family isolated," he added, without further explanation.

Westerwelle said the situation was not ripe to decide on imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. "We are at the moment not in the situation to decide this .... we have many thousands of foreign citizens and we want to fly them out, this is the first point," he told reporters. He added it was crucial that any such decision is discussed in the United Nations.

A rebel tank patrolling the area around Brega
Rebels patrol the area around Brega in tanksImage: dapd

Obama weighs options

In the United States, President Barack Obama publicly called on Gadhafi to stand down. He said he had asked his military and diplomatic advisers to examine "a full range of options" including a no-fly zone.

"We will continue to send a clear message: The violence must stop. Moammar Gadhafi has lost the legitimacy to lead and he must leave," Obama said.

Obama offered US aircraft to help move Egyptians stranded at the Libyan border with Tunisia and to aid refugees fleeing Libya. French and British aircraft have already been taking part in an international airlift and more airplanes and ships are due from other EU nations.

ICC investigates Gadhafi

In The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Thursday it will investigate Gadhafi, his sons and members of their inner circle for crimes committed by their security forces.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said no one had the authority to massacre civilians after a bloody crackdown on demonstrators against Gadhafi's rule in which possibly thousands have died.

He said the court had identified several people at the top of the command chain who could be investigated. "They are Moammar Gadhafi, his inner circle, including some of his sons, who had this de facto authority. There are also some people with formal authority who should pay attention to crimes committed by their people."

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo
The ICC is to investigate Gadhafi for crimes against humanityImage: AP

The United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Gadhafi and his family last Saturday, and referred Libya's crackdown on demonstrators to the court.

Gadhafi has vowed to stay in Libya and fight to the death since protests against his 41-year rule began in mid February, inspired by the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt that ousted longstanding authoritarian rulers.

On the ground, in Libya's east, witnesses said a warplane for a second day bombed the oil terminal town Brega, 800 km (500 miles) east of Tripoli.

But events appeared to turn against Gadhafi, as rebels spearheading the unprecedented popular revolt pushed their frontline against government loyalists west of Brega, where they had repulsed an attack a day earlier.

The opposition fighters said troops loyal to Gadhafi had been driven back to Ras Lanuf, home to another major oil terminal and 600 km (375 miles) east of Tripoli.

Author: Michael Knigge (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)

Editor: Susan Houlton