Hardening stance, US warns of need for Libya action

UN Security Council © AFP Stan Honda

AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States toughened its stance on the Libya crisis Thursday, suggesting urgent action was needed to stop Moamer Kadhafi’s advancing forces and prevent him from returning to “terrorism.”

Under secretary of state for political affairs William Burns spelled out to US lawmakers the worsening situation for Libya’s desperate rebels as Kadhafi moved to trounce the most serious uprising against his regime since he took power more than four decades ago.

“There is also a very real danger that if Kadhafi is successful on the ground, that you also face a number of considerable risks as well, the dangers of him returning to terrorism and violent extremism himself, the dangers of the turmoil that he could help create at every moment elsewhere in the region,” Burns told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“The situation is very fluid, but they’re making advances” due to superior military firepower, Burns said of Kadhafi’s forces, adding they were just 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

The comments came as the United Nations mulled a resolution against the North African nation including a no-fly zone — with Burns pressing the 15-member Security Council to act swiftly and forcefully.

“We’re working hard to try to produce a serious resolution and produce it quickly,” Burns said, stressing the need for rapid action “given the pace of events on the ground” in Libya.

Even if the UN approved a no-fly zone, the chief of the US Air Force said Thursday that imposing such a restriction on Libyan airspace would not be enough to reverse Kadhafi’s advancing forces.

General Norton Schwartz told senators that the US military could shut down Kadhafi’s air force if ordered but suggested more action would be required to push back his troops.

“The question is, is a no-fly zone the last step or is it the first step?” Schwartz said.

On Wednesday, Washington’s UN ambassador Susan Rice said the Security Council needs “to contemplate steps that involve but perhaps go beyond a no-fly zone.”

US President Barack Obama has taken pains to ensure that Washington cannot be accused of trying to shape the raging revolts in the Arab world, and has sought international backing for any military action.



But Obama opponents in Congress have criticized him as being too slow to respond to calls to mount a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians.

The West has been “acting very slow,” Ali Suleiman Aujali, Libya’s former ambassador to Washington who has turned against Kadhafi, said on CNN.

“There is no time for deliberation now,” he said. “I made a plea to President Obama to move, to do something.”

© AFPPublished at Activist Post with license

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