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EU eyes 'all options' to safeguard Libyan civilians

by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) March 11, 2011
Europe's leaders Friday ramped up pressure on Moamer Kadhafi, agreeing to talk to his opponents and protect Libyan civilians "by all necessary means" while stopping short of outright military threat.

Winding up an emergency summit on the conflict raging across the desert nation, European Union leaders demanded Kadhafi "relinquish power immediately" and deemed the opposition council based in the eastern city of Benghazi "a political interlocutor."

Kadhafi is "a leader shooting at his own people", said EU president Herman Van Rompuy. "The Libyan leadership must give up power without delay."

But as Kadhafi loyalists hammered insurgents, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose country has far-reaching historical and economic ties with Tripoli, predicted he would never give in for fear of facing international justice.

"From the moment it was announced that he should be brought before the International Criminal Court, Kadhafi will not leave power," said Berlusconi, for years one of his closest world partners.

"I don't believe anyone can make him change his mind."

Condemning Kadhafi's attacks on his own people, the EU leaders in a joint statement agreed to eye "all necessary options" to protect civilians.

But splits over resorting to military might emerged between leaders of the 27-nation bloc at a lengthy summit capping 48 hours of Libya crisis meetings in Brussels, also involving NATO defence ministers and EU foreign ministers.

"The use of force, especially with military means, against civilians is unacceptable and must stop immediately," the EU said in a final statement.

"The safety of the people must be ensured by all necessary means."

However there was no mention in the statement of calls from Britain and France for a no-fly zone over Libya. And strident demands from French President Nicolas Sarkozy for "targeted action" against Kadhafi went unheeded.

"In order to protect the civilian population," the statement said, "member states will examine all necessary options, provided that there is a demonstrable need, a clear legal basis and support from the region."

A tripartite summit gathering the EU, the Arab League and the African Union is to be held "soon," the EU said.

The Arab League -- whose green light is seen as a key to any intervention -- meets Saturday in Cairo. But the AU flatly rejected any prospect of foreign meddling in Libya on Thursday.

Sarkozy proposed "targeted actions" should Kadhafi attack his people with chemical weapons or air power "on condition that the UN wishes, that the Arab League accepts and that the Libyan opposition, which we hope to see recognised, agrees".

Some objected, however, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel notably saying she was "fundamentally sceptical."

"Given the situation today, I don't see a military engagement," she said.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle cautioned against moves to impose a no-fly zone, a solution which Britain and France have been proposing to put to the UN Security Council.

"What would we do when it doesn't work? Would we then go in with ground troops? I am very sceptical about this," he said.

EU leaders likewise refused to sign on to France's unilateral decision to recognise Kadhafi's opponents as the rightful representatives of Libya.

Instead they agreed to deem the interim transitional national council based in Benghazi as a partner for dialogue.

Again, Berlin warned against rash decisions, while Bulgaria objected on the grounds that some of its members had mistreated Bulgarian nurses accused by Kadhafi of infecting Libyan children with HIV-AIDS.

"I advise everyone to look very closely to see if these people who say they represent the people are really speaking in the name of the people," said Westerwelle. "Certain members of the opposition were until recently members of the Kadhafi regime."

With the EU already slapping the world's toughest sanctions on Libya, British Prime Minister David Cameron urged EU partners to choke off the remaining oil billions sustaining Kadhafi's "horrors" in Libya.

Cameron promoted a further squeeze on financial assets after the EU froze five state vehicles including an overseas investment fund holding massive sums, said to be under Kadhafi's family control.

"The point was made very powerfully by Cathy Ashton (the EU's foreign affairs chief) that the regime is still in receipt of very large amounts of money from its oil revenues.

Sarkozy also pushed for camps to be set up in Egypt and Tunisia to hold people fleeing escalating violence.

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West heads divided into pivotal Libya crisis talks
Brussels (AFP) March 11, 2011
Western powers headed into pivotal Libya crisis talks Friday divided over a British-French push for formal recognition of Moamer Kadhafi's opponents and a call from Paris for limited air strikes. The premier of small but influential Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, went into a European Union summit slamming French President Nicolas Sarkozy for going it alone in recognising Libya rebels in a ... read more

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