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U.N. meeting amid reproach of Libya action

March 24, 2011 at 4:30 AM   |   Comments

UNITED NATIONS, March 24 (UPI) -- The no-fly zone and multinational military campaign in Libya should continue until Libya ends hostilities with rebels, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

The U.S.-led campaign -- which focused Thursday on wiping out Gadhafi regime military units besieging two cities pivotal to the rebel movement -- should not be an open-ended military operation, Ban told Global Viewpoint Network, a commentary and interview news service, ahead of a Thursday briefing Ban will give the U.N. Security Council on the Libyan crisis.

"First, Libya should stop fighting and end their hostilities," Ban said. But "as long as they don't, the no-fly zone and military operation should continue."

Ban said he doubted the operation would lead to a military quagmire.

"I think this is different than other situations," he said. "I believe that the international coalition will have a successful operation."

Ban's Security Council briefing will take place amid growing public criticism of the execution of a March 17 council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone and "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians. Critics allege the operation is disproportionate, careless of civilian lives and goes beyond the agreed plan to impose a defensive no-fly zone.

Russia, China and non-permanent council members including South Africa and Brazil are expected to express strong reservations about how the U.N. mandate has been interpreted and executed, The Guardian reported.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the allies of launching a new "crusade" against the Arab world.

China, which -- like Russia, Germany, Brazil and India, abstained from the 10-0 Security Council vote on the resolution but did not veto it -- expressed its criticism of the operation through state-controlled media.

"The air attacks are an announcement that the West still wants to dominate the world," said the Global Times, a sister publication to the Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper. "[It] still believes down to its very bones that it's the leader of the world."

"Iraq was attacked because of oil, and Libya is also being attacked for its oil," the People's Daily asserted.

Some diplomats speculated Beijing's anger "stemmed from unease that the Western doctrine of 'liberal humanitarian intervention' might one day be applied to China, The Guardian said.

Germany, which said it opposed the military intervention, said Wednesday it would withdraw four of its ships in the Mediterranean from NATO command and refused to participate in the enforcement of an arms embargo on Libya that the United Nations authorized.

Brazil and India also condemned the intervention, with India's foreign ministry saying the intervention was exacerbating "an already-difficult situation."

South African President Jacob Zuma, whom U.S. President Barack Obama personally lobbied to support the U.N. resolution, said his country now "rejected any foreign intervention, whatever its form." He alleged the military operation had more to do with regime change than humanitarian assistance.

The 53-state African Union, partly funded by Libya, called for an end to the military intervention.

League of Arab States Secretary-General Amr Moussa, whose 22-member organization March 12 called on the Security Council to impose a no-fly zone, said Sunday the airstrikes may have gone beyond their intended scope and possibly endangered the very civilians they were supposed to protect.

But Moussa of Egypt held a news conference with Ban Monday to reiterate Arab League support for the resolution.

Saudi English-language newspaper Arab News said in an editorial Thursday the suggestion the Arab states had second thoughts about the military strikes was untrue.

"If it were, Arab governments would not be lining up to join in," the newspaper said. "Qatar has sent aircraft. Kuwait and Jordan are to provide logistical support. Saudi Arabia has given its full backing to the measures being undertaken to enforce the U.N.'s will."

Countries officially involved in the operation include the United States, Britain, France, Denmark, Canada, Italy and Qatar.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who warned Congress March 1 of risks inherent in a no-fly zone, said Tuesday he expected the fighting would significantly decline "in the next few days" and attributed criticism of the operation to "outright lies" by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi about civilian casualties.

Obama told The Miami Herald the military action had "saved lives" and caused "few, if any, civilian casualties."

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