Bid for No-Fly Zone Over Libya Lags at G-8 Talks

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

PARIS (AP) -- French and British efforts to build support for a no-fly zone over Libya ran aground Tuesday at a meeting of top diplomats, with Germany's envoy saying his country was "very skeptical" about military action against Moammar Gadhafi's forces.
Foreign ministers from the so-called Group of Eight countries agreed more action within the U.N. Security Council is needed to pressure Gadhafi -- possibly through new sanctions, but not military action, diplomats said.
"We need to send a clear signal to Libya: Col. Gadhafi must stop his civil war against his own people, he must be held responsible for his crimes," said Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle. "The Security Council must take action."
But Germany, which along with fellow G-8 member Russia has been reticent about a no-fly zone, showed little sign of changing its position in the Paris talks.
"Our position is well known: We are very skeptical about any military intervention, including a no-fly zone in Libya," Westerwelle told reporters. "We do not want to get sucked into a war in North Africa. We want to avoid any slippery slope in this direction."
British Foreign Minister William Hague, whose country has led the call with France for a no-fly zone, all but acknowledged that their effort had hit a roadblock -- even if some consensus is emerging in other areas.
"So while not every nation sees eye-to-eye like for issues like a no fly zone, there is a common appetite to increase the pressure on the Gadhafi regime," he told reporters.
Insurgents who control much of eastern Libya have called for a no-fly zone, as forces loyal to Gadhafi strike back with tanks and planes -- pressing eastward against the rebels.
On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron sought to convey the urgency, saying "time is of the essence," but underscoring that any military operation conducted would not involve "invasion or boots on the ground."
France, which has angered some allies by offering diplomatic recognition to Libya's opposition, said it is urgent to act against "barbarity" by Gadhafi's forces.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe suggested in a radio interview Tuesday that events on the ground in Libya have already outpaced diplomatic efforts.
"If we had used military force last week to neutralize some airstrips and the several dozen planes that they have, perhaps the reversal taking place to the detriment of the opposition wouldn't have happened," Juppe told Europe-1 radio. "But that's the past."
"What is happening today shows us that we may have let slip by a chance," he added.
The pressure, Juppe added, could include "reinforcing sanctions, decreeing a maritime embargo and foreseeing a no-fly zone -- even if that's not a panacea."
Many countries have called for an end to Gadhafi's 42-year autocratic reign, but economic sanctions have so far failed to stop his regime and there has been no agreement on a no-fly zone despite the rebel pleas.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who on Monday met with her counterparts and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was en route to Egypt for talks and was not attending the ministers' gathering Tuesday.
Also Monday, Clinton held the Obama administration's first high-level talks with the Libyan opposition. The U.S. remains undecided about how much support to lend to a group it still knows little about.
Also at the meeting, which has been planned for months, the ministers were focusing on Libya, Japan's post-earthquake crisis, and other pressing world issues.


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