Home > World News > World leaders unsure of how to respond to Gadhafi

World leaders unsure of how to respond to Gadhafi

World leaders are loudly condemning the rising tide of bloodshed in
Libya, but in private they are badly divided on how to respond to
Moammar Gadhafi’s threats to unleash a brutal war against the opponents
who have seized half the country.
Every option from an embargo to
military intervention is being feverishly discussed in diplomatic
corridors, yet the reality is that any effective action is likely to be
stymied by a lack of consensus among the key powers, despite their
memories of their failures to prevent past massacres in Rwanda, Bosnia
and elsewhere.
Libya’s leader bought political influence across the continent, paying
for peacekeeping missions, infrastructure and humanitarian aid
Fears of a massacre were heightened on Tuesday when the Libyan dictator
vowed to go “house to house” to crush the “cockroaches” who oppose him.
By some estimates, up to 1,000 people have already died in the fighting
in Libya so far, and gun battles are continuing daily, with Col.
Gadhafi warning that he will fight to the “last drop” of his blood.
Middle East, 1969, Libyan leader Colonel Gadhafi (arms folded) is pictured during a trip to the Sudan. (Popperfoto/Getty Images)
The European Union, which provides 70 per cent of Libya’s trade, has
been unable to reach agreement on action against Col. Gadhafi. At a
meeting on Wednesday, it promised some kind of sanctions, possibly
including an arms embargo and asset freezes, but it admitted that
further negotiations would still be needed.
U.S. President Barack
Obama, in a statement on Wednesday after several days of silence, said
he will review “a full range of options” for use against Libya, but he
refused to give any details of possible actions. He said he is
dispatching his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to discuss the
issue at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva
on Monday. He said the Libyan government “must be held accountable” for
its human rights violations, but did not say how it would be held
At the UN, meanwhile, the Security Council has not
yet announced any action or approved any resolution on Libya, although
it issued a vague statement of concern at the deaths of hundreds of
A few specific ideas are circulating. French President
Nicolas Sarkozy has now joined human rights activists and the UN human
rights commissioner in calling for a “no-fly” zone to be enforced over
Libya to protect civilians from attacks by Col. Gadhafi’s military
aircraft. “The continuing brutal and bloody repression against the
Libyan civilian population is revolting,” he said on Wednesday. “The
international community cannot remain a spectator to these massive
violations of human rights.”
Yet even the “no-fly” proposal, far
short of a land operation, seems unlikely to gain approval in the short
term. Key countries such as Italy, heavily dependent on Libyan oil and
worried about a potential flood of Libyan refugees, are unlikely to be
keen on the “no-fly” idea. China and Russia are also likely to oppose
any military action. And the nearest U.S. aircraft carrier, probably a
necessity for enforcing a no-fly zone, is still several days away from
the Libyan coast and has no orders to intervene.
Around the
world, most governments are still cautious in their response to the
Libyan violence. The African Union, after several days of silence,
finally issued a statement on Wednesday deploring the “excessive use of
force” in Libya, but it offered no concrete action, except to promise
to “dispatch a mission” to assess the situation.
Canadian Foreign
Minister Lawrence Cannon has condemned the violence in Libya and has
supported a “discussion” about sanctions at the UN Human Rights
Council, but he has not commented on exactly what kinds of sanctions
could be imposed.
Under the previous Liberal government, Ottawa
had pushed for the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, which would
oblige the international community to take action if a sovereign
country is obviously failing to protect its citizens from mass
atrocities. The concept has won support from the UN in recent years,
but Libya could be a crucial test of the principle.
In fact, the
UN Security Council statement on Tuesday included – for the first time
in history – an explicit reference to the “responsibility to protect”
principle. “The members of the Security Council called on the
government of Libya to meet its responsibility to protect its
population,” the statement said.
Naomi Kikoler, a senior adviser
at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, said the
statement is “a big step forward” for the principle. “If they invoke
the language now in the domestic context, it definitely makes it harder
for the Security Council to argue that it does not have a
responsibility to take timely and decisive action should Gadhafi
continue to be manifestly failing to protect,” she said.
Kyle Matthews, lead researcher of the Will to Intervene Project at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies,
agreed that the Security Council statement is a step forward, but he
also noted that it was mentioned only in a non-binding statement to the
media, which is “probably the most feeble response the Security Council
could get away with.”
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