Supporters of a no-fly zone over Libya introduced a U.N. resolution Tuesday aimed at stopping Moammar Gadhafi's planes from bombing civilians, with France urging quick action but Russia and Germany expressing misgivings.
The divisions over imposing a no-fly zone that were evident at a meeting earlier Tuesday in Paris of top diplomats from the Group of Eight leading economies are certain to spill into negotiations in the 15-member U.N. Security Council, which includes many of the G-8's key players.
Lebanon, the Security Council's only Arab member, introduced the no-fly provisions of the draft resolution, which are 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 as he headed into the council meeting. "In the coming days we want a resolution ... and we will do our utmost to get it."
Support lags at G-8 meeting
At the G-8 meeting, France and Britain failed to win support for a no-fly zone and the group's final communique after a two-day meeting of foreign ministers made no mention of a ban on flights. Instead, it warned of unspecified "dire consequences" if Gadhafi did not honor the Libyan people's claim to basic rights, freedom of expression, and representative government.
The halting efforts to raise pressure against Gadhafi's 42-year regime came as his forces used tanks, warships and artillery Tuesday to gain ground near the rebels' base in eastern Libya.
The G-8 ministers agreed that more action within the Security Council is needed to pressure Gadhafi to leave, possibly with new sanctions, but not military action, diplomats said in Paris.
"The G-8 agreed that we hope the U.N. Security Council should adopt as soon as possible — that is to say by the end of this week — a measure that allows us to help the opposition based in Benghazi," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said, without elaborating.
Lebanon's U.N. Ambassador Nawaf Salam said that in addition to the section on the no-fly zone, which it drafted in consultation with Libya's U.N. Mission which is supporting the anti-Gadhafi forces, there is a second section on "the strengthening and widening of sanctions" on Libya which was introduced by Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.
On Saturday, the Arab League called 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.
The Security Council on Feb. 26 imposed an arms embargo on Libya and ordered all countries to freeze assets and ban travel for Gadhafi and some close associates. It also referred the regime's deadly crackdown on protesters to the International Criminal Court, for an investigation of possible crimes against humanity.
U.N. diplomats said the proposed new resolution would call for more muscular enforcement of the arms embargo, add names of individuals, companies and other entities to the list of those subject to travel bans and asset freezes, and ban commercial flights bringing arms or mercenaries into Libya.
The draft resolution would also authorize states, in coordination, to provide humanitarian assistance and take necessary measures to protect civilians, and it would also establish a panel of experts to monitor implementation, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the text has not been released.
U.N. diplomats are expecting tough negotiations on the resolution.
One diplomat said the Security Council will be looking to see whether members of the Arab League, which is pressing for the no-fly zone, are ready to seriously participate in the establishment and operation of a zone.
British Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said Britain never expected that a no-fly zone would be agreed upon at the G-8 meeting and that the proper forum for that is the U.N.'s Security Council.
"It is a difficult process and we are under no illusions about that, but we can't act alone here," said the spokesman, speaking in London on customary condition of anonymity. "We need to build international consensus."
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the G-8 that his country is waiting for more details and clarity from the Arab League about its proposals for Libya before approving any military intervention.
Humanitarian effort vs. intervention
Amr Moussa, the Arab League's secretary-general, said a no-fly zone would be humanitarian measure to protect Libyan civilians and foreigners in the country — not a military intervention.
But Germany's envoy said his country was "very skeptical" about military action, and diplomats confirmed that Germany was one of the most reticent countries on hand Tuesday about the no-fly zone proposal of its European Union allies.
"We do not want to get sucked into a war in North Africa. We want to avoid any slippery slope in this direction," Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle said.
Lebanon's Salam insisted that a no-fly zone "in no way could qualify as a foreign intervention."
"I would hope that the establishment of a no-fly zone would have a deterrent effect on the Gadhafi regime, not to fly its airplanes to attack civilian areas," he said.
Juppe suggested in a radio interview Tuesday that events on the ground in Libya have already outpaced diplomatic efforts.
"If we had used military force last week to neutralize some airstrips and the several dozen planes that they have, perhaps the reversal taking place to the detriment of the opposition wouldn't have happened," Juppe told Europe-1 radio.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who on Monday met with her counterparts and Sarkozy, traveled to Egypt for talks Tuesday and did not attend the G-8 meeting.
U.S. diplomats said the Obama administration is prepared to engage on the text of the resolution.
President Barack Obama and his top national security aides have been cautious with calls for a no-fly zone, which the Pentagon has described as a step tantamount to war. The U.S. fears it could further strain its already stretched military and entangle the country in an expensive and messy conflict.