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Libyan rebels reject UN proposal for peacekeepers

Libya rebel leaders argue that the country is not in a civil war but united in a fight to throw off Qaddafi's dictatorship.

By Staff writer / August 31, 2011

Rebel fighters start their patrol of the village of Heisha, some 100 kilometers east from Misrata, LIbya, Tuesday, Aug. 30.

Sergey Ponomarev/AP

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Muammar Qaddafi may still be on the run and Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) still trying to find its feet in Tripoli. But a key element of a proposed United Nations plan for Libya drawn up by Ian Martin has already been roundly rejected by Libya's interim leaders.

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The BBC reports that Mr. Martin, tasked with drawing up the UN's post-conflict plans, said after a meeting with the UN Security Council yesterday that Libya's interim rulers have ruled out the deployment of any sort of international force to the country. Martin's original plan for Libya imagined up to 200 unarmed military observers plus an "interim protection force" for the observers, if the Libyans agreed.

That agreement hasn't been forthcoming. Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy representative to the UN, told the BBC that there is no need for deploying peacekeepers.

"It is not a civil war, it is not a conflict between two parties, it is the people who are defending themselves against the dictatorship," he said.

This theme that Libya's civil war is not in fact a civil war has been a popular one among supporters of the rebellion since almost the moment it started in February. In this telling, the "people" are completely united against Mr. Qaddafi's 42-year-old dictatorship.

But reports from Libya in recent weeks have made it clear that while a majority of the country's people want themselves rid of Qaddafi, that there is a core of regime support. Loyalists continue to hold out in Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte, which has profited immensely during his reign, and in the southern of Sabha. Rebels are massing around Sirte, and Kristen Chick reported for us yesterday that they've given an ultimatum for the town's defenders to surrender over the weekend, or have the city taken by force.

What will the UN's role be in Libya? It's hard to imagine it won't have a large one, particularly when it comes to eventually organizing elections and creating a semblance of democratic institutions in the country. But Libyan's interim leaders – aware that their own legitimacy would be compromised by appearing to give away sovereignty to the UN (or any other outside actors) and with the prospect of billions in Libyan founds currently frozen abroad flowing into the country – will have a major voice in shaping that UN role.

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