Remy de la Mauviniere, Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS — Security Council supporters of a no-fly zone over Libya were working Wednesday to persuade the group's more reluctant members to back a U.N. resolution aimed at stopping Moammar Gadhafi's planes from bombing civilians.
While Russia and Germany were expressing doubts, France was pushing for rapid action with Foreign Minister Alain Juppe saying in Paris that several Arab countries have pledged to participate in possible military action in the North African country.
Juppe wrote on his blog Wednesday that France and Britain have sought targeted air strikes for two weeks and said two conditions are necessary: a Security Council mandate for such force and "effective" participation by Arab states. "Several Arab countries assured us that they will participate," Juppe wrote, without elaborating.
The latest push for a ban on flights in Libya came as Gadhafi's forces intensified offensives in the east and the west Wednesday with relentless shelling aimed at routing rebel holdouts.
Rebels braced for a possible attack on the eastern city of Benghazi, where the rebellion was born a month ago. Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, warned rebels that government troops were closing in on Benghazi and urged them to leave the country. "Within 48 hours everything will be finished," he said in an interview with Lyon, France-based EuroNews television.
In the same interview, the younger Gadhafi said that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had received funding from Libya for his 2007 election campaign — a claim Sarkozy's office immediately denied.
Lingering doubts among some members over a no-fly zone were immediately apparent after a proposed resolution was introduced Tuesday afternoon in the 15-member U.N. Security Council. Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said council members will discuss the proposed resolution "paragraph by paragraph" during their Wednesday meeting because members had "a number of questions about the text."
Colombian Ambassador Nestor Osorio said Wednesday his country "very much supported" efforts to halt violence against Libyan civilians but still had questions about the details of a possible no-fly zone. Other ambassadors said issues to be clarified included whether the ban would apply to all flights countrywide, and what countries would contribute planes and other assets to enforce it.
Lebanon, the Security Council's only Arab member, introduced the no-fly provisions in a draft resolution — strongly endorsed by the Arab League — to council members at a closed meeting Tuesday afternoon. The Arabs are strongly backed by France and Britain, which drafted elements of a no-fly resolution last week.
"We are deeply distressed by the fact that things are worsening on the ground, that the Gadhafi forces are moving forward extremely quickly, and that this council has not yet reacted," France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters Tuesday.
France and Britain failed to win support for a no-fly zone during a two-day meeting of Group of Eight foreign ministers in Paris earlier Tuesday and the G-8's final communique did not mention a flight ban. It instead warned of unspecified "dire consequences" if Gadhafi did not honor the Libyan people's claim to basic rights, freedom of expression, and representative government.
Lebanon's U.N. Ambassador Nawaf Salam said Tuesday the section on the no-fly zone was drafted in consultation with Libya's U.N. diplomats, who have denounced Gadhafi and back opposition forces. Salam said Britian introduced another section on "the strengthening and widening of sanctions" on Libya.
The Arab League called Saturday on the U.N. "to shoulder its responsibility ... to impose a no-fly zone over the movement of Libyan military planes and to create safe zones in the places vulnerable to airstrikes."
Salam said Lebanon has asked Libya's U.N. Mission to identify specific areas where civilians would need protection and safe passage corridors.
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