Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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No consensus after UN talks on Libya no-fly zone


Lebanese Ambassador to the United Nations Nawaf Salam is seen on a television monitor Monday as he speaks to reporters after Security Council consultations on the situation in Libya, at United Nations headquarters.


A divided U.N. Security Council discussed Monday the idea of authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya, but no consensus emerged among its 15 members and Russia said it had questions about the proposal.

Meanwhile, a resident of Ajdabiya (ah-dja-BEE-yah) says Moammar Kaddafi's warplanes are bombing the rebel-held city, one of two major population centers between government forces and the rebel headquarters.

Said Ali Bouhilfaya, an engineer in Ajdabiya, says there are airstrikes every 20 minutes after a brief lull during the day.

The bombings came hours after a rebel spokesman said a government plane dropped pamphlets over the city, asking residents to eject anti-Kaddafi forces.

"Cut off their water and their food!" the pamphlets said, according to spokesman Abdul-Bari Zwei.

On Sunday, Kaddafi's navy, army and air force pounded Brega, another rebel stronghold.

Kaddafi forces are trying to push back the long stretch of territory controlled by rebels — nearly the entire eastern half of the country, which also has most of Libya's oil.

France, which along with Britain has led calls for an enforced ban on military flights across the North African oil-producing state, said it hoped the Arab League decision to ask the council to impose a no-fly zone would persuade reluctant members to support it.

“Now that there is this Arab League statement, we do hope that it’s a game changer for the other members of the council,” French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said before the closed-door council meeting.

After the inconclusive meeting finished, Araud said he was still hopeful of getting a no-fly zone resolution approved. ‘’It’s possible,” he said. “There was no total refusal. There were concerns, questions, but I think we are moving forward.”

He said the council should act with greater urgency given the situation on the ground in Libya, where forces loyal to leader Muammar Kaddafi have launched a fierce counter-offensive against rebels trying to oust him and end his 41-year rule.

“We would prefer to act as quickly as possible, and we want that our partners on the council have the same sense of urgency that we have,” he said. “That’s the small regret that I have.”

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that the council was not yet in a position to vote on a no-fly zone and a number of council members needed more information.

“Fundamental questions need to be answered, not just what we need to do, but how it’s going to be done,” he said. “If there is a no-fly zone, who is going to implement (it) ... Without those details or answers to those questions, it’s very hard to make a responsible decision.”

Churkin added that Moscow remained “open-minded” and had not rejected the idea of a no-fly zone.

German Ambassador Peter Wittig said Berlin supports toughening the sanctions approved on Feb. 26 by the Security Council against Kaddafi, his family and inner circle. He was more skeptical about the idea of a no-fly zone.

“Questions were raised,” he said. “We raised some questions and some of the questions are still unanswered.”

The delegation of the United States, which is undecided on whether to support a no-fly zone, left the council chambers without commenting to reporters gathered there.

Lebanese Ambassador Nawaf Salam, the sole Arab representative on the council, told reporters his delegation would be helping to prepare a draft resolution.

“The council will be reconvening soon to further discuss the matter and hopefully make a decision in that regard soon,” he told reporters after the meeting.

He said Lebanon wanted the council “to act as swiftly as possible” on the question of a no-fly zone.

“We think it is not only a legitimate request, it is a necessary request. Measures ought to be taken to stop the violence, to put an end to the ... situation in Libya, to protect the civilians there,” he said.

He added that it was impossible to say whether a no-fly zone would work or not. “These are questions one cannot answer now,” he said.

In addition to the United States, Germany and Russia, other skeptics on the no-fly zone issue include South Africa and Brazil, diplomats told Reuters.

In order to pass, council resolutions need nine votes in favor and no vetoes from the five permanent members. NATO, the most likely candidate for enforcing a no-fly zone, has made clear that Security Council authorization would be required if it was to get involved in such an operation.

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