Splits widen among Western leaders over way forward in Libya
As the US moves to transfer command of Libya operations to Western allies, Europe is grappling with who should take the lead to enforce UN Resolution 1973.
Some 56 hours after launching military strikes in Libya to protect civilians and set up a no-fly zone, European and US leaders are now describing operations as successful and efficient – and explaining the lack of planning and clarity in the mission as a necessary evil of moving swiftly to save lives.Skip to next paragraph
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The official verdict in London, Washington, and Paris is that the coalition that acted on United Nations Resolution 1973 stopped a bloodbath, supported the right cause, and needed to move “now not later,” as British Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament, which strongly supported the action.
The intervention was “not ideal,” French Prime Minister François Fillon said today in the French National Assembly, which also showed rare unified support for an initiative by President Nicolas Sarkozy. “But hesitation would have been worse.”
“Sarkozy got out in front,” says Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “Sarkozy is not a retiring type … he was important in crystallizing a coalition ... and he helped force the issue with Obama.”
Yet as “transfer” of command moves from the US to a European coalition that led the Libyan strike, some large issues are pressing: Who will lead the coalition, is Mr. Qaddafi a legitimate target, and how to identify friend from foe in the field.
The issue was on awkward display Monday at a fractious NATO meeting, as French and German representatives walked out after being criticized for too much zeal, and too little zeal, respectively, by NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
On Tuesday, coalition planes expanded the no-fly zone further in Libya under US command but targets have started to diminish as Qaddafi’s forces stay away from the open desert. There was fighting today in Misurata, Libya’s third largest city, as well as in Ajdabiya and Zintan.