Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Britain backs Libya UN suspension

William Hague
New Libyan rebel recruits chant slogans during a training session in Benghazi, eastern Libya (AP)

Britain has welcomed the decision to suspend Libya from the United Nations Human Rights Council as the international community ratcheted up the pressure on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the resolution passed on Tuesday night by the UN General Assembly in New York demonstrated its commitment to hold the Libyan dictator accountable for brutal suppression of the popular uprising against him.

"Suspension from the council puts yet more pressure on the Libyan regime to listen to the clear message of the international community - crimes will not go unpunished and will not be forgotten, there will be a day of reckoning and the reach of international justice is long," he said.

Meanwhile, the US Senate condemned the "gross and systematic violations of human rights in Libya" and demanded that Col Gaddafi leave office. Senators unanimously passed a resolution early on Wednesday that also urged the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. The US Senate resolution, which does not have the force of law, applauded the Libyan people for standing up "against the brutal dictatorship" of Col Gaddafi and for demanding democratic reforms.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress that America must lead an international response to the crisis, warning that the stakes were high. "In the years ahead, Libya could become a peaceful democracy, or it could face protracted civil war," she said.

Mr Hague has suggested that the imposition of a military no-fly zone - to prevent Col Gaddafi from using warplanes and helicopter gunships to attack his own people - could go ahead even if there is no agreement in the UN.

However, the United States - which would be a key element in any force to enforce a no-fly zone - signalled that international military intervention was not imminent. While despatching two amphibious assault ships to the Mediterranean, US defence secretary Robert Gates also pointed out that there was currently no authorisation for the use of military force under existing security council resolutions.

France has also said that a no-fly zone would need to be sanctioned by the security council while Russia has indicated that it could use its veto to block any such resolution, describing it as "superfluous".

However David Cameron, who has ordered British commanders to begin planning for a no-fly zone, insists that the international community needs to have preparations in place in case the situation deteriorated. "It is not acceptable to have a situation where Col Gaddafi can be murdering his own people using aeroplanes and helicopter gunships and the like and we have to plan now to make sure if that happens we can do something to stop it," he said.

Meanwhile, the Government said teams of aid workers were being despatched to Libya's borders with neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt where tens of thousands of refugees have been left stranded. More than 140,000 people, mainly migrant workers, are estimated to have fled the country with some 75,000 now gathered on the Tunisian side of the border in deteriorating conditions with others trying to get out.

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