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Updated: March 14, 2011 18:27 IST

France, Britain pushing for action on Libya

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton walks to her car after arriving at Le Bourget airport, north of Paris, on Monday. Photo: AP.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton walks to her car after arriving at Le Bourget airport, north of Paris, on Monday. Photo: AP.

France and Britain stepped up calls on Monday for other world powers to isolate Libya’s Moammar Qadhafi with a no—fly zone, amid diplomatic differences over how much backing to give Libyan rebels.

The accelerated push came as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top diplomats from the Group of Eight prominent world economies were gathering in Paris for a previously planned foreign ministers meeting.

France, which has angered some allies by offering diplomatic recognition to Libya’s opposition, said it is urgent to act against “barbarity” by Col. Qadhafi’s forces.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Libyans will face a “nightmare” if Col. Qadhafi regains control, insisting that the world is “reaching a point of decision” on whether foreign forces will impose a no—fly zone.

Insurgents who control much of eastern Libya have called for a no—fly zone, as forces loyal to Col. Qadhafi strike back with tanks and planes - pressing eastward against the rebels on Monday.

The Arab League has backed a no—fly zone, and Mr. Hague told BBC Radio on Monday that “in cases of great, overwhelming humanitarian need” one could be enforced without a U.N. Security Council resolution.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero, speaking to The Associated Press, pointed to an “urgency” to act because violence against civilians was increasing in Libya. He said France also was working on a list of sanctions against Col. Qadhafi’s regime at the U.N. Security Council.

Other countries, including the United States, have been more cautious.

Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, acknowledged that the Arab League supported a U.N.—approved no—fly zone, “but at the same time, it rejected any form of foreign, international intervention.”

“These are questions that have to be discussed, these are not clear signals being sent, because a no—fly zone would be a military intervention,” he said in Berlin.

Mr. Westerwelle said the Arab League would need to “not just support but also participate” in any action beyond targeted sanctions. He also stressed that Germany and other European countries don’t want to be drawn into a long—lasting war in north Africa.

Mr. Hague also said he “wouldn’t exclude” amending a ban on arms exports to Libya so that weapons could be shipped to the rebels - but that talks with allies on that are needed.

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