Arab League chief says respects U.N. Libya resolution

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 22, 2011 1:04 PM
Arab League chief says respects U.N. Libya resolution

By Yasmine Saleh

CAIRO (Reuters) - Arab League chief Amr Moussa said on Monday that he respected a U.N. resolution that authorized military action on Libya, after earlier comments suggested he was concerned by actions taken by Western powers.

"The Arab League position on Libya was decisive and from the first moment we froze membership of Libya ... Then we asked the United Nations to implement a no-fly zone," he told a news conference with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"We respect the U.N. resolution and there is no conflict with it, especially as it indicated there would be no invasion but that it would protect civilians from what they are subject to in Benghazi," he said.

The U.N.-mandated intervention to protect civilians caught up in a one-month-old revolt against Muammar Gaddafi had drawn comments from Moussa on Sunday suggesting he questioned the need for a heavy bombardment that he said had killed many civilians.

"It is for protecting civilians and that is what we care about," Moussa said, speaking at Arab League headquarters in Cairo.

Western powers launched a second wave of air strikes on Libya early on Monday after halting the advance of Gaddafi's forces on Benghazi and targeting air defenses to let their planes patrol the skies over the North African state. "We will continue to work on the protection of civilians. We urge everybody to take this into consideration in any military action," Moussa said.

The United States, carrying out the air strikes in a coalition with Britain, France, Italy and Canada among others, said the campaign was working and dismissed a ceasefire announcement by the Libyan military on Sunday evening.

Iraq's government spokesman said on Monday it backed "international efforts to protect the Libyan people" but powerful Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr condemned intervention and said Western states should avoid civilian casualties.

Sadr, who long led violent opposition among Shi'ites to the U.S. presence in Iraq, has since become a key part of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ruling coalition.

Abdulrahman al-Attiyah, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were taking part in the Western-led Libya intervention for "safety and security according to the U.N. resolution."

(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh in Cairo, Mahmoud Habboush in Abu Dhabi, Waleed Ibrahim in Baghdad; writing by Edmund Blair and Dina Zayed; editing by Mark Heinrich)