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International Community Ramps Up Discussion of No-Fly Zone International Community Ramps Up Discussion of No-Fly Zone

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National Security / libya

International Community Ramps Up Discussion of No-Fly Zone

photo of Sara Sorcher
March 9, 2011

As the international community weighs its options for responding to the escalating crisis in Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that imposing a no-fly zone should not be a U.S.-led endeavor.

"We believe it's important that this not be an American, or a NATO, or a European effort. It needs to be an international one," she said on CBS's Early Show in a pre-taped interview that aired Wednesday.

"This doesn't come from the outside. This doesn't come from some Western power or some [Persian] Gulf country saying, 'This is what you should do,'" she told Sky News on Tuesday.


President Obama hasn't yet taken a position on a no-fly zone, but he said on Monday that he hasn’t ruled anything out against Libyan ruler Muammar el-Qaddafi, including military force. Obama will meet Wednesday morning with Clinton, national security adviser Tom Donilon, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and other top officials to examine the ramifications of a no-fly zone and other potential military options, the Associated Press reports.

The British and French governments are working on a draft resolution to authorize international action through the United Nations, Clinton told CBS, but she added that there was "still a lot of opposition" within the U.N. Security Council over the issue. The U.S. and its European allies are "working to come up with a good, solid international package," she said. "I think it's very important that there be a U.N. decision on whatever might be done."

"We don't want there to be any room for anyone, including Col. Qaddafi, to say that 'this isn't about my people, this is about outsiders.' Because that would be doing a grave disservice to the sacrifice of the people in Libya," she said.

Speaking Tuesday in an interview on Turkish television, Qaddafi said that a no-fly zone would be "very useful" in showing Libyans that the international community's "real intention is to take Libya under control, take people’s freedoms away and seize their oil,” he said. “Therefore, all Libyan people would take up arms and fight.”

Qaddafi has blamed the massive unrest in his country on al-Qaida operatives and the West, saying he will "fight to the last drop of blood to defend the Libyan territory inch by inch." 

The Arab League may call for a no-fly zone this week, the group’s ambassador in Washington said, adding that this could be the critical domino to gaining the support of the U.N. Security Council and NATO to impose the zone. “The no-fly zone, I think, is now the objective of the international community,” Hussein Hassouna told Bloomberg on Tuesday. “We’ve seen every day the battles are raging and there are more casualties, so I would think that within a week, something might have to be enforced. If we leave this for too long, things will be worse and worse for the people.”

Hassouna said that if the Arab League does call for action on the no-fly zone, the UNSC and NATO would follow suit.  

NATO's AWACS surveillance aircraft are monitoring Libya 24/7 as allies consult in Brussels about the possibility of a no-fly zone, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said Monday. Air activity over Libya declined over the weekend, and a no-fly zone isn't that effective against helicopters or the ground operations NATO is observing, he said.

In Libya, Qaddafi's supporters waged a bloody battle to regain control of the rebel-held city of Zawiyah. The rebels are still in control of the eastern part of the country and continue to call for Qaddafi to step down immediately, forming a National Council led by former justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil. 

Hassouna said that Arab countries “are not in favor of foreign military intervention,” but if the rebels continue to coalesce and gain some reputability as an organization, some countries may help supply weapons.

If Qaddafi does not step down and the conflict doesn't resolve peacefully, Clinton said on CBS, "then we are going to work with the international community" to figure out a solution. "Now there are countries that do not agree with that and we think it's important that the United Nations make this decision, not the United States. So far the United Nations has not done that," she said.

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