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One proposal would enjoin forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to gun down any airplanes flying over Libyan airspace. President Barack Obama has hesitated on whether to take military action in Libya, even as Britain and France have pushed for intervention.
The Arab League's move appeared to have been led by Gulf Arab nations, which announced their support for a U. Gadhafi's government was illegitimate and that the oil-rich Gulf monarchies would "initiate contacts" with Libyan rebels instead.
The Arab League suspended Libya's membership on Feb. Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said she would travel to Cairo on Sunday to meet with the Arab League's outgoing secretary-general, Amr Moussa, to arrive at a "collaborative approach" for dealing with the North African country. Meanwhile, Rashid Khalikov, the U. In a statement issued Friday, the EU said Col. Gadhafi's regime had "lost all legitimacy and is no longer an interlocutor for the EU.
In place of Col. Gadhafi's regime, the EU said it "welcomes and encourages" the Transitional National Council as Libya's "political interlocutor," according to the statement released Friday.
The National Council is a union of rebel leaders who oppose Col. Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, said in a speech in Tripoli on Thursday that the regime didn't care about Arab states or the Arab League. The Arab League said it will also initiate "cooperation and communication" with the Transitional National Council "against the crimes committed by the Libyan authorities," according to a statement released by the League following its Saturday meeting.
The statement stopped short of recognizing the rebels as the sole legitimate government of the Libyan people. Goga of the Transitional National Council also leveled accusations against Arab League member state Syria, alleging Damascus "conspired against the Libyan people" by sending Col. Gadhafi a ship filled with weapons. He also said Syrian pilots had been among those piloting planes shot down by rebel fighters, but said he couldn't say for sure whether the pilots had been sent by the Syrian government or were acting on their own as mercenaries.
But the rebel leadership also appeared increasingly disconnected from developments on the battlefield. Gadhafi's forces had taken control of Ras Lanuf, even as government officials took journalists on a tour of the battle-scarred oil city a day after rebel columns fled the city's outskirts amid heavy bombardment by fighter jets and artillery.
Goga pledged rebel fighters would retake lost ground easily once the international community imposes a no-fly zone. He also said the rebels expected to receive new shipments of weapons but said he could provide no further details on where they were coming from. We are in the process of negotiating weapons deals and on the verge of getting new weapons. Meanwhile, an al-Jazeera cameraman was killed Saturday in what the station described as an "armed ambush" on an al-Jazeera crew on the outskirts of Benghazi, the station said.
A correspondent for the station was also wounded in the attack. Gadhafi's propaganda has singled out al-Jazeera with frequent scathing attacks on its coverage of Libya.
Thousands of residents rallied outside the courthouse in central Benghazi on Saturday night to voice their support for the station after the attack. They hoisted flags for Qatar, the country where Al Jazeera is based. The attack comes amid growing jitters in eastern Libya over recent advances by government forces on the front lines, about miles west of Benghazi. Government forces have reportedly started toward Brega, another oil-refinery town along the coastal road east of Ras Lanuf.
Unconfirmed rumors have swirled in recent days that pro-Gadhafi agents have infiltrated Benghazi in growing numbers. Rebel forces, composed mostly of untrained and lightly armed volunteers, appear to be rapidly unraveling in the face of the government offensive, which has included heavy bombardments by air strikes, artillery shells and surface-to-surface rockets.
Omar Hariri, who was tapped by the the Transitional National Council to oversee military affairs for the rebels, said the rebel fighting force was still in tact and able to fight.
Hariri told a news conference. He said the rebel fighters were prepared to stop the government's advance outside of Brega and were capable of defending Benghazi. Arab League condemns broad Western bombing campaign in Libya. Although the eccentric Gaddafi is widely looked down upon in the Arab world, the leaders and people of the Middle East traditionally have risen up in emotional protest at the first sign of Western intervention.
A shift away from the Arab League endorsement, even partial, would constitute a major setback to the U. Western leaders brandished the Arab League decision as a justification for their decision to move militarily and as a weapon in the debate to obtain a U.
Security Council resolution two days before the bombing began. Russia and China, which abstained from the voting on the U. Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention, also expressed regret that Western powers had chosen to get involved despite their advice.
In the Middle East, the abiding power of popular distrust of Western intervention was evident despite the March 12 Arab League decision. It was not clear how many Arab governments shared the hesitations voiced by Moussa, who has said that he plans to run for president in Egypt this year.
But despite Western efforts to enlist Arab military forces, only the Western-oriented Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar has announced that it would participate in the campaign. They were busy with a referendum Saturday on constitutional amendments designed to usher democracy into the country. Similarly, the provisional military-run government took no stand, and most Cairo newspapers gave only secondary space to the Libya conflict.
When the Arab League approved imposition of a no-fly zone, only Syria and Algeria opposed the decision, according to Egyptian officials. This was probably due in part to the difficulty for the al-Qaeda leadership to communicate without revealing its position.
Iran and its Shiite Muslim allies in the Lebanese organization Hezbollah, reflexively opposed to Western influence in the Middle East, also were forced into a somewhat equivocal position, condemning Gaddafi for his bloody tactics but opposing the Western military intervention.
It brings us back to the days of occupation, colonization and partition. At the same time, Nasrallah accused Gaddafi of using the same brutal tactics against his opponents as Israel has against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Ban praised the Arab League for its continued support, saying it was critical for the international community to remain united.
Media reports have indicated that some Arab League members have been reconsidering their backing since coalition aircraft began bombing Libyan military targets. Talks are under way for an emergency meeting of Arab League nations to discuss the situation in Libya, the Egyptian government-owned Middle East News Agency reported yesterday, citing Moussa as saying.
Moussa said his remarks were misinterpreted. Ban also condemned violence in Yemen after press reports that 20 people were killed when the army clashed with Houthi rebels. He also warned about spreading unrest in Bahrain.
The secretary general was forced to drop plans to walk through Tahrir Square -- the scene of massive demonstrations last month that toppled President Hosni Mubarak -- before flying to Tunis. To contact the reporters on this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson in Rome at fjackson bloomberg. To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling bloomberg. Barden at barden bloomberg.
Over three weeks ago, the people of Libya took to the streets in protest against Colonel Gaddafi and his regime, asking for new rights and freedoms. There were hopeful signs that a better future awaited them, and that, like people elsewhere in the middle east and north Africa, they were taking their destiny into their own hands.
Far from meeting those aspirations, Colonel Gaddafi has responded by attacking his own people. He has brought the full might of armed forces to bear on them, backed up by mercenaries. The world has watched as he has brutally crushed his own people.
On 23 February, the UN Secretary-General cited the reported nature and scale of attacks on civilians as. The Secretary-General said later that more than 1, people had been killed and many more injured in Libya amid credible and consistent reports of arrests, detention and torture. Over the weekend of 26 and 27 February, at Britain's instigation, the UN Security Council agreed resolution , which condemned Gaddafi's actions. It imposed a travel ban and asset freezes on those at the top of his regime.
It demanded an end to the violence, access for international human rights monitors and the lifting of restrictions on the media. Vitally, it referred the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court so that its leaders should face the justice they deserve. In my statement to the House on 28 February, I set out the steps that we would take to implement those measures.
Our consistent approach has been to isolate the Gaddafi regime, deprive it of money, shrink its power and ensure that anyone responsible for abuses in Libya will be held to account. I also told the House that I believed contingency planning should be done for different scenarios, including involving military assets, and that that should include plans for a no-fly zone. Intervening in another country's affairs should not be undertaken save in quite exceptional circumstances.
That is why we have always been clear that preparing for eventualities that might include the use of force-including a no-fly zone or other measures to stop humanitarian catastrophe-would require three steps and three tests to be met: First, on demonstrable need, Gaddafi's regime has ignored the demand of UN Security Council resolution that it stop the violence against the Libyan people. His forces have attacked peaceful protesters, and are now preparing for a violent assault on a city, Benghazi, of 1 million people that has a history dating back 2, years.
They have begun air strikes in anticipation of what we expect to be a brutal attack using air, land and sea forces. Gaddafi has publicly promised that every home will be searched and that there will be no mercy and no pity shown.
If we want any sense of what that might mean we have only to look at what happened in Zawiyah, where tanks and heavy weaponry were used to smash through a heavily populated town with heavy loss of life. We do not have to guess what happens when he has subdued a population. Human Rights Watch has catalogued the appalling human rights abuses that are being committed in Tripoli. Now, the people of eastern Libya are faced with the same treatment. That is the demonstrable need.
Secondly, on regional support, we said that there must be a clear wish from the people of Libya and the wider region for international action. It was the people of Libya, through their transitional national council, who were the first to call for protection from air attack through a no-fly zone. More recently, the Arab League has made the same demand. It has been remarkable how Arab leaders have come forward and condemned the actions of Gaddafi's Government.
A number of Arab nations have made it clear that they are willing to participate in enforcing the resolution. That support goes far beyond the Arab world. The third and essential condition was that there should be a clear legal base.
That is why along with France, Lebanon and the United States we worked hard to draft appropriate language that could command the support of the international community. Last night, the United Nations Security Council agreed that resolution. It authorises member states to take. Crucially, in paragraph 4, it. The resolution both authorises and sets the limits of our action.
Specifically, it excludes an occupation force of any form, on any part of Libyan territory. That was a clear agreement between all the sponsors of the resolution, including the UK, and of course, the Arab League.
I absolutely believe that that is the right thing both to say and to do. As our ambassador to the United Nations said, the central purpose of this resolution is to end the violence, protect civilians, and allow the people of Libya to determine their own future, free from the brutality unleashed by the Gaddafi regime.
The Libyan population want the same rights and freedoms that people across the middle east and north Africa are demanding, and that are enshrined in the values of the United Nations 18 Mar Resolution puts the weight of the Security Council squarely behind the Libyan people in defence of those values.
Our aims are entirely encapsulated by that resolution. Demonstrable need, regional support and a clear legal base: Now that the UN Security Council has reached its decision, there is a responsibility on its members to respond. That is what Britain, with others, will now do. The Attorney-General has been consulted and the Government are satisfied that there is a clear and unequivocal legal basis for the deployment of UK forces and military assets.
He advised Cabinet this morning, and his advice was read and discussed. The Security Council has adopted resolution as a measure to maintain or restore international peace and security under chapter VII of the United Nations charter.
The resolution specifically authorises notifying member states to use all necessary measures to enforce a no-fly zone and to protect civilians and civilian populated areas, including Benghazi. At Cabinet this morning, we agreed that the UK will play its part. Our forces will join an international operation to enforce the resolution if Gaddafi fails to comply with the demand that he end attacks on civilians.
The Defence Secretary and I have now instructed the Chief of the Defence Staff to work urgently with our allies to put in place the appropriate military measures to enforce the resolution, including a no-fly zone. I can tell the House that Britain will deploy Tornadoes and Typhoons as well as air-to-air refuelling and surveillance aircraft. Preparations to deploy those aircraft have already started and in the coming hours they will move to air bases from where they can start to take the necessary action.
The Government will table a substantive motion for debate next week, but I am sure that the House will accept that the situation requires us to move forward on the basis of the Security Council resolution immediately. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House call on Colonel Gaddafi to respond immediately to the will of the international community and cease the violence against his own people.
I spoke to President Obama last night and to President Sarkozy this morning. There will be a clear statement later today, setting out what we now expect from Colonel Gaddafi. We should never prepare to deploy British forces lightly or without careful thought. In this case, I believe that we have given extremely careful thought to the situation in hand. It is absolutely right that we played a leading role on the UN Security Council to secure permission for the action, and that we now work with allies to ensure that that resolution is brought about.
There will be many people in our country who will now want questions answered about what we are doing and how we will go about it. I intend to answer all those questions in the hours and days ahead, and to work with our brave armed services to ensure that we do the right thing, for the people of Libya, for the people of our country and for the world as a whole.
Edward Miliband Doncaster North Lab: I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. From this side of the House, we welcome last night's UN Security Council resolution and support Britain playing its full part in the international action that is planned.
The international community has shown clear resolve, and I applaud all the efforts that made this happen, including those of the Prime Minister and the British Government. As I have said since his statement two-and-a-half weeks ago, we support feasible and practical action to help the Libyan people, so, as befits the official Opposition, we will both support the Government and ask the necessary questions that we think the country will want asked.
It is important that the British people are clear about the purposes of the resolution and the basis for the commitment of British forces. Any decision to commit British armed forces is a grave and serious one, and it must be based on a clear and compelling case. In this case, it is based, as the Prime Minister said, on the clear evidence of Colonel Gaddafi brutalising his own people in response to the demand for democratic change.
It is action backed in the region most importantly by the clear resolution of the Arab League, and it is backed now by a legal mandate from the United Nations. So, the military action that is being embarked upon has broad support, a legal base and recognises our responsibility to protect the Libyan people.
Those are necessary pre-conditions for legitimate and effective action, and it would be quite wrong, given what is happening in Libya, for us to stand by and do nothing. I want to ask some questions about the objectives of the mission, the military implications of it and the humanitarian context. First, we need to be clear about the purpose of the mission. All of us will welcome the passage of last night's resolution to avoid the immediate slaughter of people in Benghazi.
The whole world is aware of the urgency of the situation, given the avowed intentions of Colonel Gaddafi. Can the Prime Minister reassure us that military action can be taken on a time scale that can make a real difference to the people in Benghazi?
Beyond that, should, as we hope, the effect of last night's resolution be to stop the advance of the regime, the future of Libya remains uncertain. Will the Prime Minister therefore explain the Government's broader strategy for Libya's future, should we succeed in stopping Colonel Gaddafi's advance, given that last night's resolution is directed towards a specific aim of the protection of the Libyan people, rather than explicitly towards regime change?
In this House there is agreement that Libya's future would be far better served without Colonel Gaddafi in power. Does the Prime Minister therefore agree that a range of other measures should continue to be brought to bear on the Libyan regime to support the efforts of the Libyan people in order to undermine the support for Colonel Gaddafi?
We should be working now to sharpen the choice facing the Libyan military, including through action from the International Criminal Court, and to increase the pressure on other members of the regime.
We should also be making explicit the risks for countries allowing their citizens to serve as mercenaries, and I believe the UN resolution does recognise that point.
We should also continue to make clear to the Libyan people the offer of a better life that lies beyond Colonel Gaddafi. May I urge the Prime Minister to ensure that discussions take place at the earliest stage with the Arab League, the European Union and others on a continuing basis for contingency planning for a stable and viable state beyond Colonel Gaddafi?
May I also, in the broader context of the region, emphasise to the Prime Minister that we should continue to show the utmost vigilance about developments elsewhere, including in Bahrain, and that we should make clear the need for reform and restraint, not repression, throughout the region? Secondly, let me ask about the military action itself. Will the Prime Minister reassure us that all steps are being taken to ensure that those participating in any military action reflect the broad base of support, including from the Arab League?
Does he agree that a continuing diplomatic effort will be required to ensure that that happens? Further, under the contingencies that have been prepared and subject to the operational limits on what the Prime Minister can say, how does he envisage the military chain of command operating?
Thirdly, let me ask about the humanitarian situation in Libya. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to update the House on the continuing situation of British nationals in the light of the clearly changed circumstances that we now face? We will have all noted with concern the decision of the Red Cross, prior to the resolution, to withdraw from Benghazi.
Will the Prime Minister assure the House that efforts will be made to ensure continuing humanitarian access to Benghazi? What plans are being made to facilitate the return of humanitarian assistance? Finally, let me say to the Prime Minister that, at this time, Labour Members will give our full support to our armed forces. Once again, they are engaging in dangerous and courageous action on behalf of our country, and we salute their professionalism and bravery.
They are serving to uphold the will of the international community, including the United Nations, and in their service I believe they will have the support of the whole House. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his support and for the way in which he put that support in his questions. Let me try to answer all the questions he put. In terms of the time scale and potential military action, the issue is this: But, if that does not happen, then, yes, consequences and "all necessary measures", as the Security Council resolution puts it, will follow; and we are able to do that on a time scale that I believe will be effective.
In terms of our broader strategy, what we believe we need in Libya is a transition towards a more open society and towards a better democracy, but we have to be clear about our aims.
The UN Security Council resolution is absolutely clear that this is about saving lives and about protecting people. It is not about choosing the Government of Libya; that is an issue for the Libyan people.
Mercenaries are included in the UN Security Council resolution, which is welcome. Gentleman's point about the International Criminal Court was covered by the earlier resolution, which of course is still in force.
In terms of consultations with the Arab League and with Arab countries, there will be a meeting in Paris tomorrow, which President Sarkozy has called. I will attend, and there will also be representatives from across the Arab world to bring together the coalition to help to achieve the goals that the UN Security Council has so rightly voted for. Gentleman says that we must be vigilant elsewhere with all the challenging problems in our world today, and he mentioned Bahrain.
That is absolutely right, and the Government are keeping their travel advice and their work helping British nationals in Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere permanently under review, meeting regularly to try to make sure that we do everything we can to help people as necessary.
In terms of Arab League participation, what we seek is the active participation of some Arab League countries. I believe that we will get that, and from the calls that I have made I have had some reassurances. In terms of the military chain of command, to be clear, to begin with this is going to be a joint operation, if necessary, carried out by Britain, America and France, with Arab and other participation, and it will be co-ordinated in that way.
In terms of British nationals, as we have announced before in the House, almost all those who want to leave have left. There are some who remain. We have our relationship with the Turkish embassy, which is working with us and for us in Tripoli, and we also have an active consular figure in Benghazi. But obviously, part of the aim of what we are trying to do-to stop Gaddafi entering Benghazi-will be in the interest of those British nationals in Benghazi.
Gentleman asked about humanitarian aid. Clearly, a very big aim of the UN Security Council is to make sure humanitarian aid can get through. Above all, as the right hon.
Gentleman said, any decision to put the men and women of our armed forces into harm's way should be taken only when absolutely necessary, but I believe, as he said, that we cannot stand back and let a dictator whose people have rejected him kill his people indiscriminately. To do so would send a chilling signal to others. I believe also that we should be clear about where our interests lie. In this country, in particular, we know what Colonel Gaddafi is capable of, and we should not forget his support for the biggest terrorist atrocity on British soil.
We simply cannot have a situation where a failed pariah state festers on Europe's southern border, and that is why we are backing today our words with action. Sir Malcolm Rifkind Kensington Con: May I congratulate the Prime Minister on the superb leadership that he and the Foreign Secretary have given both at home and at the United Nations in securing this resolution, without which the people of Benghazi and of Libya would face a humanitarian disaster?
Will the Prime Minister confirm that the UN resolution, which, as he has indicated, refers to. I thank my right hon. It is vital that we have now got this UN Security Council resolution, and that we make very clear the ultimatum to Colonel Gaddafi so that we secure that ceasefire and stop his operations.
Paragraph 4 refers, crucially, to "all necessary measures" to protect people-"to protect civilians"-and, indeed, specifically mentions Benghazi.
The Attorney-General's advice, which we may discuss in more detail later, makes it very clear that that means we can take measures that will help those things to be achieved.
It is very important for us to understand that. I congratulate the Prime Minister and those in the Foreign Office, including our excellent diplomats at the United Nations, on the work that they have done in securing the chapter VII resolution. The French Government should also be given a great deal of credit, because they too have worked very hard on this. Will the Prime Minister clarify the role of the African Union, which is referred to in the resolution, as well as that of the Arab League?
Given that three African states, including South Africa, voted for the resolution, is there any possibility of the African Union using its good offices to try to find a way of getting Gaddafi out of power without the conflict going on for a very long time? Gentleman makes an extremely good point about the leadership role taken by Nicolas Sarkozy and the French. I absolutely pay tribute to our ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, and his team, who did a superb job in marshalling support. Members in all parts of the House will see, when they read the resolution, that it is very, very strong and extremely comprehensive, and I hope that it marks a new start in what the UN will be able to achieve.
We very much hope that the African Union will use its good offices in the way that the hon. African Union missions are still going to Libya, and we think that they will be enormously influential. I was particularly pleased that the three African members voted for the resolution, and I hope that that is a sign of things to come.
Richard Ottaway Croydon South Con: As one of the doubting Thomases of the past few weeks, I congratulate the Prime Minister on his success and leadership and offer him my full support. I also join him in paying tribute to Sir Mark Lyall Grant and his team at the UN for what is a remarkable diplomatic success, which hopefully will mark a turning point in the development of these issues at the UN.
I am sure the Prime Minister agrees that difficult questions remain. At this moment, however, it is incumbent on all of us to stand behind the armed forces, particularly our airmen, who have to implement the resolution.
Friend is entirely right. Of course there are difficult questions. We are embarked on a difficult course, not least because we have set a limit on that course and have said, quite rightly, that this is not about an army of occupation. I think it important for us all to understand that that is a correct limit, and a limit that people across the Arab world want to hear.
I very much echo what my hon. Friend said about Mark Lyall Grant, but above all our thoughts-the thoughts of everyone in the House and, I am sure, everyone in our country-will be with those armed forces and their families who will be preparing, potentially, for difficult days ahead. The Government and the armed forces have our full support in this matter.
The Prime Minister mentioned three criteria for determining the appropriateness of intervention, but surely there is another factor: In the light of developments in the middle east in recent weeks, will the Prime Minister and his colleagues have another look at the strategic defence and security review to establish whether our country will continue to have those assets in future?
Of course I look very carefully at every decision that we make in defence, and I see it as a personal priority for me as Prime Minister. I would say to colleagues, however, that even at the end of this defence review and the end of this Parliament, we will have the fourth largest defence budget anywhere in the world.
We have superbly equipped armed forces, and many of the decisions that we made in the defence review were intended to ensure that they had flexibility: I should also point out that the Typhoons that we are considering using are not in any way involved in Afghanistan.
I have been given assurances by the Chief of the Defence Staff that our planning for what may be necessary in Libya does not affect the efforts that we are making in Afghanistan with our allies to bring greater security to that country. Yet again, my right hon. Friend has shown a breathtaking degree of courage and leadership.
I support what he has said and what he has done. Does he agree that, while regime change is not the aim of these resolutions, in practice there is little realistic chance of achieving their aims without regime change? Friend puts it extremely well. The aim is clear: It is the protection of lives and the protection of people. It is the prevention of a bloodbath in Benghazi. It is to make sure that arms do not get to Libya, that assets are frozen and that travel bans are imposed.
It is all those things. Those are the aims, and they are what we must now pursue. Of course, like many other leaders the world over, we have all said that Gaddafi needs to go in order for Libya to have a peaceful, successful and democratic future, and that remains the case. It is almost impossible to envisage a future for Libya that includes him. But we should be very clear, in the international alliance that we are building, that the statements in the UN Security Council resolution are our aims.
Those are the things that, on behalf of the rest of the world, we are helping, with others, to deliver. Jeremy Corbyn Islington North Lab: Abuses of human rights and the oppression of civilians are not unique to Libya. They may differ in degree, but they are not unique. Is the Prime Minister now suggesting that we should develop a foreign policy that would be prepared to countenance intervention in other countries where there are attacks on civilians, such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman or Bahrain?
I hope that he has thought this whole thing through, because we may well be involved in a civil war in Libya for some time to come. I sometimes want to meet that argument with the answer that the fact that you cannot do the right thing everywhere does not mean that you should not do the right thing somewhere.
A more detailed answer, however, is that what is happening in Libya is different. The situation is that of a people rising up against their leaders and wanting a more democratic future, and then us watching as, potentially, those people are destroyed by that dictator.
As I have said, I think that what we see coming together here is Britain acting with others in favour of international law and international governance and the UN and all that is right and fair and decent in our world, yet, at the same time, I believe, very much acting in our national interest, because it is not in our national interest for this man to lead a pariah state on the southern banks of Europe with all the problems that that could entail.
So I hope that, not just across the world but across this country, we shall be able to build the broadest coalition for support for the action we are taking, encompassing all those who care about the UN and international law and what is good and right in our world, but who also recognise that a hard-headed assessment of British national interest means that we should not stand aside from this.
I welcome the Prime Minister's statement and last night's United Nations resolution. I think it is absolutely right for the international community to take urgent action to protect civilians in Libya. Will the Prime Minister please assure me that our intelligence assets in the region are doing all that they can to monitor the activities of, and communication between, senior regime leaders and commanders, with a view to ensuring that we can prosecute them to the fullest extent of international law?
Gentleman knows-we never comment on security and intelligence matters in the House. However, his point about the International Criminal Court and the need to be clear about the fact that, as I have said, international law 18 Mar Column should have a long arm, a long reach and a long memory and that we should gather evidence for that, is absolutely right. Given the unpredictability of the outcomes in Libya and the middle east, and given that all actions have consequences, how can the Prime Minister be so sure that, as a consequence of what we are doing, a complex and dangerous situation will not simply be made worse?
Lady asks a very important question. It seems to me that we have to look at the consequences of doing nothing-the slaughter that could ensue, the oppression of these people we see so clearly on our television screens-and then ask what are the consequences of action. What is so convincing in this case is that the Arab League countries and Arab populations are, I believe, willing the international community on.
I think that the opinion on the Arab street is very much that it is good that the international community is coming together and showing that it cares about our democracy and not just your security. I think that we can win that argument, but we will have to go on making it with Arab leaders and Arab populations, and making sure that we communicate with them very strongly why we are doing this and why it is the right thing.
Nicholas Soames Mid Sussex Con: I join others in congratulating the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and all the others who have been involved in securing this very tough resolution, and indeed the building of a broad-based coalition to deal with Gaddafi.
Does the Prime Minister agree, however, that in the weeks to come it will be important for the country to know that at the same time as trying to deal with Gaddafi, the Government are also intent on forging ahead, with our European partners, in keeping the middle east peace process revitalised and going, so that we can draw the poison from the well? Friend makes an extremely good point.
A Palestinian leader once said to me, "If you really want to secure the long-term defeat of al-Qaeda, there must be a combination of more democracy and freedom across north Africa and the middle east and a solution to the Israel-Palestine problem. As someone who has argued all along that any military action should be based on a resolution of the United Nations Security Council, I accept that the situation today is different than it was yesterday and previously.
Nevertheless, despite all that the Prime Minister has said about reservations, no ground troops and so forth, does he recognise that in the country at large there is bound to be great anxiety that we could be dragged, through escalation, into a third war in nine years? Therefore, will the Prime Minister make sure that there are daily-or at least very regular-reports to the House of Commons, so we avoid a third war?
Gentleman puts the point extremely well. I agree that there should be regular statements updating the House. We should start with a 18 Mar Column debate on Monday on a substantive motion, so that Members can debate that, and propose amendments if they want.
We will be putting down that substantive motion later today, so that colleagues can have a look at it. On taking the country with us, the hon. Gentleman's point about legality is vital. We have a legal basis here-the UN, the world's governing body, coming together and making that clear-and we need to explain that what we are doing is legal, proportionate and right. But I also believe that, as I said a moment ago, to take people with us we have to make the arguments both that it is wrong to stand aside as this dictator massacres his own people and it is in our interests to act, and also that it is in our national interest, because we do not want this pariah state on our borders.
The point the hon. Gentleman makes about no ground troops and no occupying force is vital. That is in the UN Security Council resolution; it is the reassurance that we can give to people that that is not part of our aims-it is not want the UN wants, it is not what the Arab League wants, it is not what Britain wants.
That is clearly a limitation on our ability to act, but it is absolutely right, and I think people will be reassured by it. Mr Christopher Chope Christchurch Con: May I also commend my right hon.
Friend on his decisive leadership? Why does he think Germany abstained on this resolution, and is Germany going to be interfering in preventing us from recognising the regime in Benghazi?
I thank my hon. Friend very much for his support. On the German attitude, to be fair to the German Chancellor, whom I spoke to last night, she has been consistently sceptical about this issue. I do not believe that Germany will in any way be destructive within NATO, because it recognises that the UN has voted for this resolution, on which the Germans, of course, abstained. It is for them to explain their scepticism. Of course arguments can always be made about, "If we are acting here, why not elsewhere?
Joan Ruddock Lewisham, Deptford Lab: I hope the Prime Minister will join me in also congratulating President Obama, who by his cautious deliberations has allowed the Arab states to come to the fore, and, unlike his predecessor, has shown proper respect for the United Nations, thus giving a major boost to the rule of international law.
Lady makes an extremely good point and is absolutely right. I had a very good conversation with President Obama last night, and I think he has shown great leadership on the UN and what is proposed in the new resolution, and on being able to bring together its various elements.
Lady is right that allowing the Arab League the space and time to come forward and make its own views clear has helped to create a sense of consensus at the UN, where we have the ability to act. But the clock is now ticking, and we now need a sense of urgency, 18 Mar Column because we do not want to see a bloodbath in Benghazi, and further repression and taking of innocent civilian life in Libya.
I join my right hon. Friends in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his brilliant success at the United Nations, which is a vindication of the credibility of British foreign policy.
Can he say more about the strategic objective, which, as Lord Dannatt and others have clearly stated, must be extremely clear? Friend is committed to regime change, but are our allies, and in particular President Obama, committed to regime change? The answer I give my hon. Friend is that almost every leader in the free world has said Gaddafi needs to go-that his regime is illegitimate and there is no future for Libya with him in charge-but we must be clear about the aim of what we are now involved in.
The aim is to put in place the UN Security Council resolution, which is about protecting people's lives and about the steps we are prepared to take to isolate the regime and give that country the chance of a better future. We must restrict ourselves to that aim in meeting this UN Security Council resolution.
Obviously, we have a desire, which I and others have expressed, that Gaddafi has no future, but our aim here must be clear, and that is how we must drive this alliance forward. Now that the UN has reasserted its authority with this resolution, it is important that Gaddafi is in no doubt that there is an overwhelming military force to carry it out.
In that light, how many countries does the Prime Minister wish to provide military assets, and how many of them come from the Arab League?
Gentleman makes a good point. Obviously, we want the widest alliance possible. I do not think it would be right for me to name at the Dispatch Box those countries that are considering participation, but there is a wide number. Clearly, at the heart of this are the Americans, the French and the British, but other European countries are coming forward, and there are also some in the Arab League, including a number I have spoken to, who have talked about active participation-about playing a part in this.
One of the purposes of the meeting tomorrow in Paris will be to bring together the widest possible coalition of those who want to support it, and I believe, particularly as this has such strong UN backing, that it will be a very wide coalition indeed. Bob Stewart Beckenham Con: Speaking as someone who has watched well-armed Bosnian Serb units smash through civilian populations, may I ask my right hon.
Friend the Prime Minister whether Security Council resolution allows us, under its provision on "all necessary measures", to avoid the arms embargo and directly arm the people who are fighting against Gaddafi in Benghazi and elsewhere? The first point I would make to my hon. Friend is how welcome it was that Bosnia was sitting on the Security Council and able to vote in favour of this resolution-for good historical reasons.
Column The resolution helps to enforce the arms embargo, and our legal understanding is that that arms embargo applies to the whole of Libya. Paragraph 4 authorises member states. That is very strong language, which allows states to take a number of military steps to protect people and harm those who are intending to damage civilians.
It could not be clearer, and the legal advice is clear. Let me make this point as well: Mr David Lammy Tottenham Lab: Given that the Gaddafi forces are advancing, what assessment has the Prime Minister made of civilian casualties and what discussions has he had on any post-conflict reconstruction, learning the lessons of Iraq?
Gentleman makes an extremely good point. It is clear that there have been widespread civilian casualties, and I quoted some figures in my statement. It is also clear that if Gaddafi goes into Benghazi the situation could get radically worse, which is why, as I have said, the clock is ticking-the time for action is now. In terms of reconstruction and humanitarian aid, my right hon. Friend the International Development Secretary will be leading a cross-government group to make sure we do everything we can to bring all our resources to bear-we have considerable resources in this area-working with others to make sure that we get humanitarian aid to every part of that country and that we plan for the future.
Tony Baldry Banbury Con: One of the factors that caused Gaddafi to abandon his programme of weapons of mass destruction in the s was that he knew he was on the verge of being indicted for war crimes by the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, so he well understands both the power and the reach of international criminal law.
Will my right hon. Friend try to ensure that the International Criminal Court makes it very clear that it is not only Gaddafi who stands at risk of being indicted by the ICC, but all those around him who are most responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity?
Friend makes an extremely good point, and we are making sure not only that Gaddafi and his immediate colleagues know they are in danger of going in front of the ICC, but that all those who choose to back the regime and carry out war crimes know that they are also in that danger. In addition, anyone who thinks of being a mercenary, of organising mercenaries or of organising arms shipments to that regime are covered in the same way.
Communicating that message in all the ways that we can is vitally important work. I support the freedom struggle of the Libyan people and I am a supporter of the United Nations, but I have grave concerns about the use of force by western powers in this region, and both the short-term and long-term consequences.
It therefore behoves us to ask the question: In the short-term, in the interests of conflict resolution, is there to be a final offer from the United Nations to Gaddafi for peace talks? If armed conflict goes ahead, what measures are being put in place to ensure the safety of civilians? In particular, may I urge the Prime Minister that there should be no use of depleted uranium weapons, which have damaged the long-term safety of the civilians in Iraq?
Given the change of regimes that has taken place in this region, given what is happening in Bahrain and given the continued oppression of the Palestinian people, may I urge him to go to the United Nations and say that now is the opportune time to re-establish a middle eastern conference that looks at the long-term security and peace of this region?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. What the UN is suggesting is very clear. The point that I would make to the hon. Gentleman does need to think about this, because although there should, of course, be all sorts of things holding you back before you take action, and there are all the questions you should ask, when there is this degree of international backing, and if Gaddafi will not stop the brutalising of civilians, there is a complete legitimisation of taking action to protect those civilians.
May I, too, congratulate the Prime Minister on his spectacularly successful leadership and the amazing turnaround that he has achieved? Will he tell the House a little more about the discussions he is having with members of the Arab League about the role that they may be able to play in supporting this resolution?
The encouraging thing is, first, that the Arab League came forward so clearly and asked for a no-fly zone. The contact I had, including on my trip to the Gulf, was that so many were so clear that Gaddafi was illegitimate and that what he was doing was wrong. There was a genuine sense of outrage at what he was doing. The key now is to try to encourage the Arab League and its members, and not just in those 18 Mar Column words and great sentiments: That is extremely important and we should do everything we can to secure it.
Richard Burden Birmingham, Northfield Lab: I welcome last night's UN resolution; this is not Iraq, but it is an important test of the international community's willingness to protect civilians from the immediate danger of slaughter.
Given the importance of keeping the Arab world on board in this endeavour, will the Prime Minister tell the House a bit more about his objectives for tomorrow's meeting in Paris? The first objective of tomorrow's meeting in Paris is to bring together in person those Arab leaders that President Sarkozy, President Obama and I have been speaking to in recent days so that we can discuss the importance of having the widest possible alliance to prosecute the implementation of this UN Security Council resolution.
That is the most important thing. Even before then, a range of planning activity and, as I said in my statement, logistics activity needs to take place. We must quicken the contacts we have with all those Arab countries, but I hope that tomorrow we will see a visible demonstration of the world coming together to say, "This man must stop what he is doing and if he doesn't, there will be very severe consequences. The Prime Minister has made a credible and convincing case for joint action to protect Libyan civilians whose lives are threatened by Gaddafi, a despot with a record of international terrorism and internal terror.
However, there is a significant risk of stalemate if a no-fly zone can be established in time and Gaddafi's air force and helicopters are grounded. Can the Prime Minister say which organisations or nations have indicated that they would be willing to play a part in breaking such a stalemate if indeed it arises? Friend makes a very good point. Of course there is a danger of stalemate, as he says. At that point there could be a role for organisations such as the African Union to try to bring this situation to a close, but as we stand today Colonel Gaddafi has not ceased his attacks on Benghazi or on people in Libya.
That provides the urgency for this resolution, the action that we are preparing to take and the ultimatum that we will give. Of course, if he accedes, there could be a role for the African Union and for others. Heidi Alexander Lewisham East Lab: The Prime Minister talks about the need to think about the consequences of our action or inaction.
One possible consequence is that Gaddafi is left weakened and alienated but not defeated. What consideration has been given to that scenario and, in particular, the implications for security and stability in the region and more widely?
Lady makes a very good point, and we have to consider all of these issues. The point I would make is that the reason why Gaddafi is weakened and insecure is because his people rose up 18 Mar Column and said that they wanted no more of him and that they wanted to have a more open and democratic future. I believe that in response to that we have been right, and others have been right, to encourage the Arab world and the north African world to move in a more democratic direction.
She is absolutely right to say that from a national security perspective we have to consider all the implications of what is happening in Libya. The Home Secretary will be looking at the consequences for migration and we need to look at the consequences in terms of security policy too. Lady is entirely right in that view. Although today's statement has understandably focused on military and diplomatic issues, a huge humanitarian crisis is already taking place, with a large number of Libyans having already fled and crossed the Mediterranean to Malta, Italy and other places.
I was very encouraged by what the Prime Minister had to say about the role of the Department for International Development. Would he recognise that many of us in this House and countless millions of our constituents are equally proud of the very strong soft power that our nation is able to utilise and which we hope it will utilise in these difficult weeks and months ahead?
Friend makes an extremely good point, and I will stress again what the International Development Secretary will be doing. Obviously, he will be looking at what has been happening on Libya's borders-we have discussed that before-but he will also be looking at the issues within Libya itself. There is no doubt in my mind that in this situation soft power has had an enormous effect on giving people a sense that a better future is available to them and that they do not have to put up with the regimes that they have had to put up with for so long.
Despite the fact that there may be difficult days ahead, as we grapple with implementing this UN Security Council resolution, we should lift our heads up and believe that there is a more hopeful future for this region and, therefore, for our world. Chris Bryant Rhondda Lab: I am sure that the whole House will wish the Prime Minister well as he discharges his duties in relation to Libya over the coming days, because he will face many much more complex decisions than those he has already had to take and they will affect life and death in Libya.
We all want to see Gaddafi gone and we want to see everybody in Benghazi protected, but is the Prime Minister anxious about Russia's abstention? Will he make sure that cluster munitions, which are banned for British troops, will also be banned by all those others who are taking part in this, because in many cases it is the aftershock of cluster munitions that devastates the civilian population?
Gentleman makes a good point about cluster munitions. We do not use those munitions and we do not believe that others should either. On the Russian abstention, and indeed the Chinese abstention, all I would observe is that this is, in many ways, quite a welcome step forward. We are talking here about a very tough resolution on what has happened in another country where people are being brutalised.
In 18 Mar Column years gone by, we might have expected to see Security Council vetoes. The fact that we have not is a very positive step forward for international law, for international right, and for the future of our world.
Mr William Cash Stone Con: Time, of course, remains of the essence, and those who are resisting may well need arms rapidly.
Paragraph 4 of the resolution, which my right hon. Friend did not mention, says. Does not that provide an avenue, through a committee of sanctions of the United Nations, to allow arms to be supplied, as sub-paragraph c of paragraph 9 appears to suggest, to those resisting Gaddafi in Benghazi and thereabouts?
I always worry when my hon. Friend mentions the word "notwithstanding"; a small chill goes up my spine. I think I am right in saying that the resolution is clear: The legal advice that others have mentioned, and that we believe some other countries were interested in, suggesting that perhaps this applied only to the regime, is not in fact correct. Nick Smith Blaenau Gwent Lab: In the next few difficult months, can we ensure, as well as we can, that we do not damage the Libyan water and energy infrastructure and thereby make things difficult for the wider Libyan population?
Gentleman is absolutely right, first, to say that in many ways the easy decisions have been made, and now there are the difficult times and the difficult decisions have to be made. I am acutely conscious of that. His point about Libyan resources is entirely right. If Gaddafi will not cease his war on his own people and if military action has to be taken, we need to make sure that that is done commensurate with international law and trying to avoid, wherever possible, collateral damage, civilian casualties, and all the other things that he says.