Italy, France and UK to meet on Libyan operations

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 11, 2011 11:57 AM
Italy, France and UK to meet on Libyan operations

By Adrian Croft

LONDON (Reuters) - The defense ministers of Italy, Britain and France will meet on Tuesday to discuss increasing the military pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Monday.

NATO stepped up attacks on Gaddafi's armor over the weekend after rebels accused the alliance of acting too slowly.

Italy, Britain and France are involved in policing the no-fly zone over Libya. Italian aircraft take part in missions identifying anti-aircraft radar but do not shoot or drop bombs.

Asked if Italy could consider taking part in NATO combat operations, Frattini said: "We are talking about that within the government."

He said Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa would host a working dinner on Tuesday with his British and French counterparts.

"The three will be talking about how to make military pressure even more effective," he told a news conference after talks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

South African President Jacob Zuma, head of an African Union peace mission, said earlier Gaddafi had accepted a peace "road map," including a ceasefire, after talks in Tripoli.

Hague said any proposed ceasefire must meet U.N. conditions.

"There should be no ceasefire that does not meet the conditions of U.N. Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 in full, and that is not acceptable to those representing the opposition in Libya, including the Interim National Council," he said.

"Anything short of this would be a betrayal of the people of Libya and would play into the hands of the regime, which has announced two utterly meaningless ceasefires since the fighting began without its vicious military campaign skipping a single beat."

Hague said he had met Libya's former U.N. ambassador Abdurrahman Shalgham on Monday.

Hague and Frattini both said Gaddafi must leave power.

"That political perspective for the future of Libya should include the departure of Gaddafi," Frattini said.

(Additional reporting by Keith Weir, Tim Castle and Olesya Dmitracova in London and James Kackenzie in Rome; editing by Andrew Roche)