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Libya turmoil 'due to West's failure to act forcefully after fall of Gaddafi'

Published 19/01/2016

Lord Hague and Liam Fox appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee
Lord Hague and Liam Fox appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee

Libya has been left in a "terrible state" because the West failed to take "forceful" action in the aftermath of the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, MPs have been told.

Britain knew that weapons were being transported out of the collapsing state but was unable to act because it did not have boots on the ground, the Foreign Affairs Committee heard.

Rapid elections paved the way for the success of radical Islamists, the hearing with Liam Fox and Lord Hague was told.

France was described as the driving force for military intervention, with former president Nicolas Sarkozy "very determined" from the outset.

Former defence secretary Dr Fox told the committee he had concerns in the months after the death of the dictator about how plans on the ground to create a new government were progressing, as well as what measures were being put in place to control Libya's weaponry and how rebel factions would be reconciled.

Britain knew stockpiles of weapons were being transported out of the country but could not stop the convoys because they may have included civilians, he told the committee.

"It was, and is, always an unavoidable consequence of not having ground forces that you can have leakage of weapons of that nature," he said.

"It was seen as a risk, but an unavoidable one unless we were going to put forces on the ground that could stop and search these convoys."

French warplanes carried out s orties within hours of an agreement on intervention.

Asked if France had "jumped the gun and didn't tell us", Dr Fox said he "was not" aware of anyone in government who knew about the impending air strikes.

Conservative John Baron suggested the French had been keen to get involved militarily because they wanted to show off their hardware to increase weapons sales.

"I think it is unfair to categorise it in that way," Dr Fox replied.

He suggested the "keenness" at the top of the French government to be at the forefront was aimed at showing the country was a "serious player" following the "reticence" of the US to become involved.

"I think that would probably be a better motivation than simply defence sales," he added.

Dr Fox said there had been "no appetite" in the military for action and suggested there would have been no conflict if Gaddafi had "pulled back".

The peer and the MP both denied that the campaign had been about deposing Gaddafi.

"There was no plan for regime change," Dr Fox said.

Lord Hague told MPs that transition had been too quick and rapid elections meant senior figures in the transitional government "disappeared" too quickly.

He conceded "certainly there was a success for radical Islamist candidates" in the poll.

The former foreign secretary said United Nations assistance was "not prescriptive enough" and the organisation had failed to be "forceful" in implementing plans for crucial areas such as policing.

"One of the lessons of this is not that there was a lack of planning, but that transition takes a lot longer," he added.

Lord Hague said: "It is in a terrible state."

He added: "In Libya we had plenty of plans but no power to implement them."

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