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Arab League now worried about Qaddafi retaliation after supporting Libya no-fly zone

Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa is now questioning whether US and European military action against Libya has gone too far.

By Staff writer / March 20, 2011

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa speaks during a news conference with European Parliament President Jerzy Buzekat in Cairo, Sunday. The Arab League chief said that Arabs did not want military strikes by Western powers that hit civilians when the League called for a no-fly zone over Libya.

Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Reuters

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Paris

The European- and US-led military action against Libya in the past two days pivoted on the Arab League's crucial support of a no-fly zone that would protect civilians there.

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Without the Arab League's endorsement, the United Nations Security Council likely would not have passed Resolution 1973 on Thursday, which approved “all necessary measures” to protect the Libyan people.

But Arab League leader Amr Moussa is now distancing his organization from the resulting military action in what may be a sign he is feeling pressure in the region from member states fearful of Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi's reach.

"What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone,” he said today. “What we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians."

The comments, which preceded an emergency Arab League meeting, came less than a day after Mr. Moussa represented the Arab world at a Paris meeting designed to achieve unity.

While Moussa’s remarks have puzzled some officials and irritated others, one French analyst who met with him ahead of the Paris meeting says the Arab leader was under pressure by Arab senior officials worried about Libyan operatives working in their states that could conduct “retaliatory operations.”

French Arab specialist Antoine Sfeir said Moussa had tried for a collective call for Mr. Qaddafi’s ouster, but that in recent days the Arab league leader had come under pressure by members worried about Libyan operatives in their states ready to conduct terrorism.

“The Arab states are worried about retaliation from Libya, and I think French citizens have to be worried about that as well,” he added.

French military spokesman Thierry Burkhard said today that the Arab state of Qatar has contributed four planes to the allied effort that France took the lead on, and that the enthusiasm of the citizens of Libya's de facto rebel capital of Benghazi was a clear signal of support.

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