Saturday

6th Mar 2021

East Timor could serve as model for UN mission in Libya

  • UN chamber in New York. Nato official: 'the next step of the effort should be in the hands of the UN' (Photo: United Nations Photo)

Unarmed UN-hatted police supported by African Union and Arab League soldiers as well as Nato air-lift and sea-lift capabilities is emerging as the preferred model for a post-Gaddafi peacekeeping mission in Libya.

The UN special advisor for post-conflict planning in Libya, Ian Martin, told press in Istanbul on Thursday (25 August) that he is looking to set up an "integrated advance mission" in order to restore security, rebuild public services and help rebel leaders, the Transitional National Council (TNC), to make preparations for democratic elections.

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Martin said the mission is likely to involve UN police and military observers but added: "We are not now expecting a request [from the TNC] for any United Nations military deployment."

Nato is in parallel to the UN process drawing up its own plans for how to restore order.

A Nato official told EUobserver on Friday the alliance would be "comfortable" with providing logistical support, such as air-lift and sea-lift equipment, but that it will not put "boots on the ground."

The feeling in the Western alliance is that African or Arab soldiers will be more welcome by Libyan people and by neighbouring Muslim countries than its own Afghanistan-and-Iraq-linked flag.

"We are saying that the next step of the effort should be in the hands of the UN backed up by the Arab League and the African Union ... After all, Libya is an African nation," the Nato official said.

A source close to the planning process noted that the UN is looking to its former mission in East Timor as a model for the Libya effort.

The UN mission in East Timor lasted from 1999 to 2002 and at its height consisted of 1,640 UN police and 9,150 soldiers drawn from a broad mix of countries including Brazil, Russia, Thailand and Turkey. It cost around $500 million and played a big role in putting together the country's first post-war government.

It was also headed up by Ian Martin, the UN's point man on Libya.

Three Arab countries - Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - already took part in the military offensive against Colonel Gaddafi.

The African Union was against military intervention. A meeting of the body in Ethiopia on Friday saw just 22 out of 55 members formally recognise the TNC, in a development which augurs badly for its participation in any UN effort.

Nato is keeping up its air bombardment of Gaddafi targets for the time being.

The alliance is unhappy about press reports that British and French troops are in action on the ground in Libya laser-pointing targets and helping rebels to hunt Gaddafi - activities which would go beyond the terms of Nato's existing UN mandate to impose a no-fly zone.

The Nato official told EUobserver that "if" individual member states have special forces on the ground, the troops are under national, rather than Nato command.

"If the British or French have soldiers on the ground, then calling them 'Nato troops' is a bit unfair," the source said.

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