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Nato weighing military options for Libya

Washington, March 9, 2011

The United States and its Nato allies are weighing the legality of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya without United Nations backing, The Washington Post reported, citing US and European officials.

With a UN mandate far from certain, countries considering some form of military intervention -- the United States, Britain, France and Italy -- are looking for alternative international support, the officials told the newspaper.

The officials suggested international backing could come from regional blocs, such as the Arab League, the African Union or the European Union, and noted that Nato's air attacks on Serbia in 1999 came without UN authorization, the Post said.

In addition to a no-fly zone, the United States and Nato governments are weighing a range of military options that would not require a UN resolution, such as the establishment of an air or naval bridge to carry humanitarian supplies to Libya and naval patrols to block arms shipments to the Libyan government, the newspaper reported.

Facing growing calls at home to help Libyan rebels seeking to end Muammar Gaddafi's 41-year rule, US President Barack Obama discussed a potential no-fly zone for Libya with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday.

Obama and Cameron discussed a 'full spectrum of possible responses' in a telephone call, the White House said.

Forces loyal to Gaddafi attacked rebels with rockets, tanks and planes on Tuesday, intensifying their efforts to crush the revolt and raising pressure on foreign governments to act to avert a humanitarian crisis in the oil-producing nation.

Britain and France are seeking a UN Security Council resolution for a no-fly zone to ground Gaddafi's aircraft and prevent him moving troops by air. Russia and China, which have veto power in the council, are cool toward the idea, which would likely require the bombing of Libyan air defenses.

Nato military officials began briefing governments on Tuesday night on the proposed options that will be presented to defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday, the Post reported.

Both the United States and Britain have insisted that any military intervention must have broad international support.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that any decision to impose a no-fly zone is a matter for the United Nations and should not be a US-led initiative.

'We want to see the international community support it (a no-fly zone),' Clinton told Sky News. 'I think it's very important that this not be a US-led effort.'

A European diplomat told The Washington Post that Italy was willing to make its air bases available for no-fly operations over Libya if they were supported by the EU and the Arab League, which is due to meet on the Libyan crisis this week.

'We need some signal from the region that the action was welcome,' a European official told the newspaper. - Reuters




Tags: US | Nato | libya | Obama | no fly zone |

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