3rd Feb 2023

EU refuseniks justify staying out of Libya action

  • US fighter pilot carries out pre-fly checks ahead of the Libya strikes (Photo: US Department of Defence)

Germany and Malta over the weekend gave fresh reasons for staying out of the EU-US-Arab attack on Colonel Gaddafi.

Speaking in Der Spiegel on Sunday (20 March), German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said he acted in a national tradition of military restraint and that Germany would have had to send soldiers to Libya if it had backed a UN resolution on the no-fly zone.

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"We have considered this very carefully and made an important decision," he explained. "Why does the West have primary responsibility instead of the countries in the region, the Arab League in particular?"

He added that the US can use German bases for anti-Gaddafi operations and that Germany will redeploy Awacs radar planes in Afghanistan to free-up US assets. He also noted that Germany has paid €5 million in aid for Libyan refugees.

The Westerwelle remarks came after criticism from commentators and from the Social Democrat opposition party, which said the no-fly zone has nothing to do with sending German soldiers.

Maltese leader Lawrence Gonzi told the Radio 101 station the same day that he will not let coalition forces use Maltese airports for security reasons.

"The prime minister re-iterated that his utmost priority was the country's security and as Malta had only one airport, it could not be placed in danger," a Maltese diplomat told this website. "[He] said that the situation was a grievous one and [that] one had to be extremely careful what to say."

Malta lies just 350km from Libya. In 1986 two Libyan scud missiles nearly hit the Italian island of Lampedusa 620km away.

The African Union, China and Russia have also distanced themselves from Operation Odyssey Dawn.

Delegates from Congo, Mali, Mauritania, South Africa and Uganda at an African Union meeting in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, over the weekend called for an "immediate stop" to avoid "serious humanitarian consequences."

The People's Daily newspaper, a Chinese government outlet, wrote in an editorial on Monday: "The blood-soaked tempests that Iraq has undergone for eight years and the unspeakable suffering of its people are a mirror and a warning."

Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said: "We believe a mandate given by the UN security council resolution - a controversial move in itself - should not be used to achieve goals outside its provisions."

In a surprise statement, Arab League head Amr Moussa went back on his earlier support for the strikes. "What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone and what we want is the protection of civilians and not bombing other civilians," he told press in Cairo on Sunday.

Political cover

The reactions follow a heavier-than-expected bombardment of Gaddafi targets. The assault began at 18.45 Libyan time on Saturday and involved British, French and US jets, submarines and warships.

One cruise missile hit a Gaddafi bunker in Tripoli, with the Libyan leader's precise whereabouts unknown on Monday morning.

The British, French and US-led operation has political cover from Muslim power Turkey and from Arab country Qatar, however.

The Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement: "Turkey will make the necessary and appropriate national contribution to implementing a UN no-fly zone over Libya and measures to protect civilians."

Qatar is sending four Mirage 2000 fighters to take part in missions. "There must be Arab states undertaking this action, because the situation there is intolerable," Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told Al Jazeera.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a leading Muslim theologian from Egypt, also speaking on Al Jazeera rebuffed Gaddafi's claim that the attack is a "crusade." "If Gaddafi was indeed a leader, he wouldn't kill his own people. A shepherd protects his flock," he said.

Final obective

Inside the coalition a difference of opinion has emerged between British defence minister Liam Fox and the chair of the US joint chiefs of staff, Mike Mullen.

Speaking on the BBC's Politics Show on Sunday, Fox indicated the ultimate goal of the operation is regime change and that Gaddafi could be a legitimate target.

"Mission accomplished would mean the Libyan people free to control their own destiny. This is very clear – the international community wants his regime to end," he said. "There is a difference between someone being a legitimate target and whether we go ahead and target him," he added.

In remarks later the same day to NBC, Admiral Mullen voiced concern about exceeding the UN resolution writ on protecting civilians: "The goals of this campaign are limited. It is not about seeing him [Gaddafi] go. It is about supporting the UN resolution."

Asked if the objective could be fulfilled without Gaddafi leaving power, he said: "This is one outcome."

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