Brussels talks seek united approach on crisis West split on Libya
WESTERN powers headed into pivotal Libya crisis talks yesterday divided over a British-French push for f o r m a l r e c o g n i t i o n o f Muammar Gaddafi ’ s o p - ponents and a Paris plea for limited airstrikes.
Capping 48 hours of talks on Libya involving NATO d e f e n c e m i n i s t e r s a n d European Union f o r e i g n ministers, heads of state and government of the 27-nation bloc head to Brussels for an emergency summit aimed at delivering a joint response on events in the oil-rich country.
‘‘ Colonel Gaddafi must rel i nquis h p o wer i mmediately,’’ the EU leaders said at the talks, according to a draft of summit conclusions.
They also opted for ‘‘ continued planning with NATO All i es’ ’ t o prepare f or al l contingencies, including a no-fly zone.
Britain and France have a draft resolution in hand to put to the United Nations Security Council for an air exclusion zone over the oilrich country. But the council remains split on the issue and even allies Germany and Italy have sounded words of warning. ‘‘ We do not want to get sucked into a war in No r t h Af r i c a , ’ ’ G e r ma n F o r e i g n Mini s t e r Gui d o Westerwelle said.
At the two-day NATO defence ministers’ talks that began on Thursday, the alliance agreed to send more ships towards Libya’s coast. But it delayed any decision on imposing a no-fly zone, saying clear UN approval for military action was needed first. ‘‘ There is no rush to move forward without the UN,’’ the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said as the bloc tightened the screws on Colonel Gaddafi with new sanctions targeting key Tripoli firms.
On military as well as on political options t owards Libya and the Arab world at l arge, Europe needed t o move in concert with the region, notably the Arab League, which meets i n Cairo this weekend.
‘‘ The Arab world has lead,’’ Ms Ashton said.
The EU’s top diplomat had no criticism of France’s surprise decision to recognise Libya’s opposition as the country’s rightful representative. Recognition of gov-
to ernments was ‘‘ a question for member states’’, she said.
B u t P r e s i d e n t Ni c o l a s Sar koz y ’ s s udden move, along with his call for aerial action, cast a pall over talks between the bloc’s foreign ministers on Thursday.
‘‘ Recognition should be a European, not a national, decision,’’ said Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
Berlin too objected, with Chancellor Angela Merkel not only taken aback at F r a n c e ’ s r e c o g n i t i o n o f Libya’s opposition but also warning against ‘‘ use of military means’’.