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At Arab League, Oman Urges Action On Libya
Reflecting Gulf view, Oman urges Arab action on Libya; No-fly zone, rebel recognition on agenda, deal unlikely; League in contact with Gaddafi envoys, rebel council
March 12, 2011 6:28 by Reuters
Arab states must intervene in Libya or risk unwanted foreign intervention, Oman’s foreign minister told an Arab League meeting on Saturday.
European states hope the Arab League will take the lead in shaping policy towards the revolt that has divided Libya. The League has suspended Libya for its crackdown on an uprising against Muammar Gaddafi but has not severed all ties to Tripoli.
Gulf states including Oman have voiced strong criticism of Gaddafi and called for a no-fly zone over Libya, but the position of other Arab League states is not clear. Analysts doubt its members will agree unanimously on such action.
Egypt, buoyed by the revolution that swept Hosni Mubarak from power, could prove crucial in swaying opinion. States including Syria have been less critical of Gaddafi.
“What is needed now is Arab intervention using mechanisms of the Arab League and at the same time in accordance with international law,” Omani Foreign Minister Youssef bin Alawi bin Abdullah said in his opening remarks to an Arab League meeting.
“We must look at various options that circumstances in Libya need,” he said, giving brief opening remarks during a televised opening session over which he presided.
“What is happening now to the Libyan people poses a threat to the security and stability of Arab states.
“If the Arab League does not take responsibility to prevent a downward spiral, that could lead to internal fighting or unwanted foreign intervention,” he added.
Gulf Arab ministers said on Thursday Gaddafi’s administration had lost its legitimacy and called for measures including imposing a no-fly zone. Gaddafi has had particularly bad relations with Gulf heavyweight Saudi Arabia for years.
SAIF AL-ISLAM SAYS ARABS ARE “NOTHING”
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, a candidate for the Egyptian presidency, called for a no-fly zone to help the Libyan people “in their struggle for freedom against an increasingly inhuman regime”.
In an interview with Der Spiegel, he said the Arab League could play a role.
Outside the League’s Cairo headquarters, about a hundred people held a protest against the Tripoli government, waving the pre-Gaddafi flag that has become a symbol of the revolt. “The people want to put the murderer on trial,” they chanted.
“Egypt should take a stronger position so that it can restore its weight in the region,” Fayez Gabrail, a Libyan protesting outside the building, said.
At a March 2 meeting, the Arab League said a no-fly zone was an option. NATO has cited firm regional support as one element required for the imposition of a no-fly zone on Libya.
European Union states said on Friday they would examine options to protect civilians but also listed regional support as one necessary element. The United States has said a no-fly zone remains an option to put pressure on Gaddafi.
The Arab League, though appearing tough on Gaddafi, has not cut all ties with his government. It says it needs to be in touch with the people who control the situation in Libya.
Saif al-Islam, one of Gaddafi’s sons, told supporters in Tripoli this week the Arabs were “nothing”. “Screw Arabs and the Arab League,” he said.
The League has established contact with the rebel National Libyan Council, based in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Extending formal recognition to the rebel council is also on the agenda of Saturday’s Arab League meeting.
Germany and the European Union foreign policy chief have both said they would look to the Arab League’s decision to help guide their own policy on the issue.
The 27 EU members on Friday endorsed the Libyan National Council as “a political interlocutor”. (Additional reporting by Brian Rohan in Berlin; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
By Yasmine Saleh and Marwa Awad