British foreign secretary urges NATO to lead Libya action

British foreign secretary urges NATO to lead Libya action
# 24 March 2011 20:26 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday NATO should take control of the multinational operation in Libya quickly, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

Hague told parliamentary members the operations were currently under U.S. command. "But we want them to transition to NATO command and control as quickly as possible."

NATO had already launched its operation to enforce the arms embargo. Its planning was complete for the no-fly zone. "And we are making progress in NATO taking on all measures under (U.N.) Resolution 1973 needed to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s attacks. We need agreement to unified command and control for it to be robust, and we expect to get that soon," he said.

Hague said: "We continue to take robust action to implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorized military action to put in place a no-fly zone to prevent air attacks on Libyan people, and to take all necessary measures to stop attacks on civilians while ruling out an occupation force."

The case for this action remains utterly compelling. Appalling violence against Libyan citizens continued to take place, exposing the regime’s claims to have ordered a ceasefire to be an utter sham, he said.

The western Libyan town of Misurata has been under siege for days by Libyan government ground forces. Coalition airstrikes, however, are helping to relieve the pressure on its citizens, many of whom are trapped in their homes without electricity or communications, with dwindling supplies of food and water and facing sniper fire if they venture into the streets. The local hospital is swamped with casualties.

Ajdabiya in the northeast continues to be under attack, with reports of civilian deaths from tank shells. This underlines the appalling danger its inhabitants would be in without coalition action, as do continued threats by Gaddafi forces to "massacre" residents in areas under bombardment.

Hague said: "There is universal condemnation of what the Libyan regime is doing from the United Nations, the Arab League, the African Union and from Europe. The regime’s actions strengthen our resolve to continue our current operations and our support for the work of the International Criminal Court."

He said British forces had undertaken a total of 59 aerial missions over Libya in addition to air and missile strikes. "Last night, our forces again participated in a coordinated strike against Libyan air defense systems. A no-fly zone has now been established and the regime’s integrated air defense system has been comprehensively degraded. There are no Libyan military aircraft flying," he said.

More than 150 coalition planes have been involved in military operations, including Typhoon and Tornado aircraft from the Royal Air Force. Thirteen nations have currently deployed aircraft to the region. A number of additional nations have made offers of aircraft and other military support and are in the process of being agreed. Royal Navy vessels are in the region supporting the arms embargo.

Britain will host an international conference next Tuesday to take forward the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.

"We are inviting NATO allies, key international organizations including the UN, the Arab League and the African Union and many Arab nations," Hague said. "We continue to engage in intensive diplomatic activity to increase multilateral pressure on the Libyan regime. Further UN and EU sanctions have been agreed targeting Gaddafi and his associates, and against those Libyan organizations responsible for funding his regime. As of today, the EU has designated the National Oil Corporation of Libya, cutting off any oil revenues."

The foreign secretary said Britain would continue to deepen its contacts with the Libyan opposition, including the Interim National Council based in Benghazi.

"I spoke to Mahmoud Jabril, Special Envoy of Council, on Tuesday to discuss the situation on the ground and to invite him to visit London," Hague said.