World leaders gather to discuss action in Libya

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 22, 2011 12:44 PM
World leaders gather to discuss action in Libya

By John Irish and Andrew Quinn

PARIS (Reuters) - World leaders gathered in Paris on Saturday to discuss a coordinated military intervention in Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi was defying the West with a final push into the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy met for three-way talks an hour before a 1:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. EDT) wider meeting on a U.N.-mandated military intervention.

Several Arab leaders will be at the talks along with an African Union representative and an array of European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, even though Germany is not expected to participate in any action.

Paris has taken a leading role in coordinating the world's response to the crisis in Libya and try to halt Gaddafi's attacks on rag-tag and poorly armed rebel forces.

Backed by Cameron, Sarkozy convened Saturday's talks in a matter of hours after pushing France's U.N. Security Council partners hard this week to back a resolution allowing possible military action and a no-fly zone over the Libya.

Sarkozy will address the media after the meeting, at around 3:30 p.m. (1430 GMT) and Clinton, Cameron and Merkel are also expected to make statements.

Gaddafi's advance into Libya's second city of 670,000 people, in spite of having pledged a ceasefire on Friday, appeared to be an attempt to pre-empt Western military intervention, which diplomats say will come only after Saturday's talks.

The French and British governments declined to react to the latest attacks in Libya ahead of the Paris talks, but a French government source said the international community must act fast. "Everything is ready (to act) but the decision is now a political one. It's clear we have to move quickly," he said.

Earlier on Saturday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe met EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton to discuss the EU's role in implementing the U.N. resolution voted late on Thursday.

Early on Saturday, ambassadors from the 28 NATO states met in Brussels to discuss plans for possible NATO involvement in enforcing a "no-fly" zone over Libya, but a decision was unlikely to be made before Sunday, a NATO diplomat said.

The diplomat said the session was adjourned to await the outcome of the Paris talks and ambassadors planned to meet again after that. "Obviously the pressure is building to do something now," he said.

(Additional reporting by Keith Weir and Emmanuel Jarry in Paris and David Brunnstrom in Brussels; Writing by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Jon Hemming)