Friday, April 15, 2011

Libya: Italy rejects calls to join ground attack operations

William Hague and Secretary
General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
at the NATO mee


Splits in the international coalition on Libya widened on Friday as Italy flatly rejected calls to contribute air power to the mission targeting Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

Amid growing fears of a military stalemate in Libya, Britain and France have exhorted other Nato members including Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, to provide warplanes and other "strike assets".
Only Canada, Norway, Denmark and Belgium are supporting the Anglo-French ground attack operations, which Nato estimates is at least ten warplanes short of what is required.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, claimed to be making "a bit of progress", and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato Secretary General said he was "hopeful" that other members will do more. But a Nato ministers' meeting in Berlin ended on Friday night without any firm commitments of new deployments.
Spain on Thursday rejected requests to do more, and yesterday Italy said it would not go beyond allowing Britain and France to use Italian airbases.
"We have done enough," said Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister. "An engagement that goes beyond our current commitment would not make sense."

Mr Berlusconi was speaking after it emerged that ENI, the Italian oil company, was preparing to ship oil from Gaddafi-controlled terminals for the first time since air strikes began.

Germany meanwhile warned that the military action ran a "big risk" that a crippled, divided Libya would become a failed state on the doorstep of Europe. "The fact is there is a big risk that this military operation gets stuck in the sand somewhere and at the end of the day Libya turns into a failing state and Gaddafi is still in control of quite a chunk of that failing state," said Werner Hoyer, the deputy foreign minister. "That would be a nightmare."

Canada also said that it could not consider increasing its military contribution to the mission until after its general election next month.

There was also growing criticism on Friday over signals that Britain, France and the US would continue the military mission until Col Gaddafi was ousted.
That has led to allegations that the allies are overstepping the authority of United Nations Security Council resolution 1973, which last month authorised military action to protect Libyan civilians from Col Gaddafi's forces.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, attended the Nato summit and warned that the current military strikes "in many cases go beyond the framework set by the Security Council".

Nato's refusal to target the Libyan leadership directly has allowed Col Gaddafi, his family and lieutenants to re-emerge in public after disappearing in the early weeks of the bombing campaign.
In a display of defiance, Aisha Gaddafi, the dictator's only daughter, took to the ramparts of a house destroyed by America's 1986 air raid to scorn the pressure that is being put on the Libyan regime. "Leave our skies with your bombs," she said. "You want to kill my father, pretending to protect civilians. To speak of Gaddafi's resignation is a humiliation for all Libyans."

Gaddafi's forces yesterday launched more heavy bombardments on the rebel-held western town of Misurata, now in its seventh week of siege.

Nearly 1,200 Asian and African migrants, many in bad shape after weeks with little food or water, left the town on Friday on a ship for Benghazi, the rebel capital.

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