Lebanon’s ambassador to the United Nations said he would appeal today to the Security Council to authorize a no-fly zone over Libya and that Arab nations would play a “significant” role in its enforcement.
“I am sure you heard Saif al-Islam Qaddafi’s statement that in two days they will be in Benghazi,” Ambassador Nawaf Salam told reporters before the council met. “I hope the Security Council will prove him wrong on two counts: that there will be no rivers of blood and that the council will act swiftly and have a no-fly zone and other measures to protect the civilian population.”
Qaddafi, son of Libya’s leader Muammar Qaddafi, said on state-run television that government forces were closing on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. “By God, victory is coming,” he said.
Salam said a “number” of Arab countries are committed to help enforce the no-fly zone and that “significant participation has been confirmed from the highest political authorities.” He declined to be more specific.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today in Cairo that Arab participation was critical. “The Arab League statement, their very courageous stance, suggests that they know that they have to step up and lead and participate in any action,” Clinton said in an interview on CBS News.
Momentum in the monthlong conflict has shifted toward the Qaddafi regime, which has recaptured the oil port of Ras Lanuf, the nearby town of Bin Jawad and the western city of Zawiyah. His forces have used armor and planes to drive back the insurgents, who are calling for Western support to end Qaddafi’s four-decade rule.
The Security Council began deliberations on a draft resolution authorizing a no-fly zone and strengthening existing sanctions on Libya intended to block the participation of mercenaries and cut off any movement of arms to government forces.
“Our goal is to have a resolution before the end of the week and, if possible, before tomorrow night,” France’s Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters before the meeting.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “gravely concerned about the increasing military escalation by government forces, which include indications of an assault on the city of Benghazi,” the UN said in a statement released in New York. “A campaign to bombard such an urban center would massively place civilian lives at risk.”
Security Council members including Brazil, China, Germany, Russia and South Africa have expressed reservations about the resolution.
“We are hoping to focus the efforts of the international community on actions that will have a real influence on events,” Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the UN told reporters before the Security Council meeting. Bloomberg