Friday, 18 March 2011

Cameron calls in cabinet as UN votes for no-fly zone over Libya

David Cameron called a cabinet meeting this morning and will make a statement to the House later on Libya, a spokeswoman said on Thursday. Earlier, the United Nations Security Council voted to authorise a no-fly zone over Libya and "all necessary measures" - code for military action - to protect civilians against leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces. The spokeswoman added: "We have obviously been contingency planning to be ready to support a resolution. We are a permanent member of the Security Council and will play a role (in enforcing it)."

The main details of UN Resolution 1973, authorising action to protect Libyan civilians from Muammar Gaddafi, are as follows:

• The resolution expresses the UN's "grave concern at the deteriorating situation, the escalation of violence, and the heavy civilian casualties", condemns "the gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and summary executions" and says the attacks against civilians "may amount to crimes against humanity" and pose a "threat to international peace and security".

• A no-fly zone is "an important element for the protection of civilians as well as the safety of the delivery of humanitarian assistance and a decisive step for the cessation of hostilities in Libya".

• It "demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians" and "that the Libyan authorities comply with their obligations under international law ... and take all measures to protect civilians and meet their basic needs, and to ensure the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance".

• It authorises UN member states "to take all necessary measures [notwithstanding the previous arms embargo] to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory''.

• It requests the co-operation of the Arab League member states in the previous measure.

• It decides to "establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians", exempting humanitarian flights, and authorises member states and Arab League nations "acting nationally or through regional organisations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures to enforce compliance with the ban on flights".

• It calls on member states to intercept boats and aircraft it believes may be taking arms and other items banned under the previously passed UN embargo and includes "armed mercenary personnel'' in that category – telling members states to "comply strictly with their obligations ... to prevent the provision of armed mercenary personnel to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya''.

• Member states should ensure domestic businesses "exercise vigilance when doing business with entities incorporated" in Libya "if the states have information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that such business could contribute to violence and use of force against civilians".

• It requests that the UN secretary general creates "a group of up to eight experts" to oversee the implementation of the resolution.

President Barack Obama telephoned the leaders of Britain and France after the vote, the White House said. US officials speaking after a closed-door briefing in Congress said the attempt to ground Gaddafi’s air force could begin by Sunday or Monday with the use of jet fighters, bombers and surveillance aircraft.

"Given the critical situation on the ground, I expect immediate action on the resolution's provisions," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the vote. He pledged to "work closely with member states and regional organizations to coordinate a common, effective and timely response."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Tunisia on Thursday that a UN no-fly zone over Libya would require action to protect the planes and pilots, "including bombing targets like the Libyan defence systems," but no ground intervention is considered.