Libya ‘ready for ceasefire’ after UN no fly zone vote


Libya is ready for a ceasefire with the rebels battling Muammar Gaddafi, but wants to discuss how it will be implemented, deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaaim says.

‘‘We are ready for this decision (a ceasefire) but we require an interlocutor to discuss how to implement it,’’ Kaaim told a news conference shortly after the UN Security Council voted to permit ‘‘all necessary measures’’ to impose a no-fly zone, protect civilian areas and impose a ceasefire.

‘‘We discussed last night with the UN envoy (for Libya, Jordan’s Abdul Ilah Khatib) and asked legitimate questions on the application of a ceasefire,’’ he said.

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Kaaim indicated that Libya would ‘‘react positively to the UN resolution, and we will prove this willingness while guaranteeing protection to civilians.’’

The Security Council authorised air strikes to halt Gaddafi’s offensive against embattled rebel forces in the North African country, with the first bombing raids possible within hours.

American broadcaster CNN also reports Gaddafi has changed tact with ‘‘a humanitarian gesture’’, deciding to hold off on plans to send the army in to Benghazi and mercilessly crush all resistance, as had been promised.

‘‘I just took a phone call from one of Gaddafi’s sons, Seif (al-Islam). This is the message from the leadership,’’ the CNN correspondent in Tripoli said.

‘‘He said they’re going to change the tactics around Benghazi, that the army is not going to go into Benghazi.

‘‘It’s going to take up positions around the stronghold.

‘‘The reason is they expect a humanitarian exodus.’’

UN moves against dictator

Earlier today. the UN Security Council has passed a vote calling for “all necessary measures” against forces loyal to the Libyan leader.

The vote – 10-0, with abstentions from Russia, China, Brazil, Germany and India – will allow foreign enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya and ground Colonel Gaddafi’s air force, reportedly as early as today.

The move comes as Libya’s deputy foreign minister told a news conference that his country was ready for a ceasefire with the rebels, despite Gaddafi reportedly vowing: “They will never have peace.”

Jubilant insurgents at the rebel stronghold of Benghazi greeted the news with cheers, singing and gunfire.

The BBC reported that attacks on forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi by the British and French air forces could begin within hours of the UN passing resolution 1973/2011, with anti-aircraft defences the likely first targets.

While the US was not expected to be involved in first attacks, the BBC said: “British and French are likely to get logistical backup from Arab allies.”

UN statement

The Security Council called for an “immediate ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against and abuse of civilians”.

In a strongly worded statement on its website, it condemned the “gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and summary executions”.

The statement said the no-fly zone banned all flights, except humanitarian ones, from Libyan air space “in order to help protect civilians”.

“[The resolution] specifically calls on Arab League states to co-operate with other member states in taking the necessary measures.”

The resolution authorises member states to “take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamhariya, including Benghazi, while excluding an occupation force,” the UN said

The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said in a statement on Twitter that the Security Council had responded to the “Libyan people’s cry for help”.

“The Council’s purpose is clear: to protect innocent civilians,” she wrote.

Libya’s deputy ambassador to the UN, one of the country’s first diplomats to speak out against Colonel Gaddafi when the protests began this year, said the vote sent a clear message to his leader.

“It is a clear to the Libyan people that they are not alone,” he told reporters, Reuters said.

“It is also a clear message to Colonel Gaddafi and those who are supporting him that there is no place for dictatorship … there is no place for atrocities, for mass killing.”

Colonel Gaddafi has already criticised the resolution, with The Guardian reporting him telling Portuguese television station RTP: “This is craziness, madness, arrogance. If the world gets crazy with us we will get crazy too.

“We will respond. We will make their lives hell because they are making our lives hell. They will never have peace.”

The Libyan leader vowed just hours before the vote to oust the rebels from Benghazi.

International reaction

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the resolution was an important step towards curbing the Libyan regime’s violence against anti-government rebels.

“These measures strengthen enforcement of the UN arms embargo and broaden the reach of the financial sanctions,” the pair said in a joint statement.

“The Australian government was among the first to call for decisive action by the international community, including a UN-mandated no fly zone.

“Through this action, the UN Security Council has invoked the Responsibility to Protect for the second time in three weeks and has taken decisive action to protect civilians in Libya.”

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said France would support military action against Colonel Gaddafi within hours.

The US said it was preparing for action.

Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will join international forces ready to enforce the no-fly zone, US Congress and UN diplomatic sources say.

Germany said it abstained from the vote because of fears that the resolution could lead to a protracted conflict within the region.

“We should not enter a military confrontation on the optimistic assumption that quick results with few casualties will be achieved,” German ambassador to the UN, Peter Wittig, said.

Canada sends six jets

Canadian television network CTV reported that Canada would be contributing six air force jets to help enforce the no-fly zone.

The European Union said it was “ready to implement” the resolution. The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, said it was “high time for the Security Council to decide”.

Britain’s Royal Air Force is expected to send Tornado attack aircraft equipped with precise weapons from their bases in Marham, east England, and Lossiemouth in Scotland, Agence France-Presse reported.

Chinese envoy Li Baodong, who holds the rotating council presidency this month, said: “We are going to take action very quickly.

“I urged all the delegations to get instructions from their capitals as early as possible,” he said.

Libya warns of Mediterranean attacks

Meanwhile, in Tripoli, Libya warned it could target military and civilian air and sea traffic in the Mediterranean in case of a foreign military intervention, the official Jana news agency reported.

“Any military operation against Libya will expose all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean to danger,” Jana quoted Libya’s defence ministry spokesman as saying.

“And any civilian or military moving traffic will be the target of a Libyan counteroffensive,” he said. “The Mediterranean basin will be exposed to grave danger, not just in the short term but also in the long term.”

With Gaddafi forces claiming to be at the gates of Benghazi, a decision has become imperative.

France and Britain have led a campaign at the 15-nation council for a no-fly zone over Libya. While this was resisted by China, the US has taken an increasingly tough line seeking broader measures against the threat posed by Colonel Gaddafi.

No-fly zone may not be enough

The United States has said a no-fly zone may not be enough and stressed the need for strong Arab participation in any operation.

The chief of the US Air Force, General Norton Schwartz, told US legislators in Washington that imposing a no-fly zone over Libya “would not be sufficient” to halt Colonel Gaddafi’s forces.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on a visit to Tunis that the US “will look for a broad base of participation, including from Arab nations”.

NATO has already planned for a no-fly zone and its chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen earlier urged the UN security council to agree on a resolution quickly, warning “time is running out” to stop Colonel Gaddafi.

“If Gaddafi prevails, it will send a clear signal that violence pays. That would be unacceptable from a humanitarian and democratic perspective,” Mr Rasmussen said.

“NATO stands ready to protect the civilian population if there is a demonstrable need, clear legal basis and strong regional support.”

China has opposed military action, Germany has also spoken out against no-fly zones.

Russia, India, South Africa and other nations have expressed various degrees of doubts, diplomats said.

Russia had wanted a resolution demanding a ceasefire to be passed first, but this did not get enough backing to go for a vote smh