France's Sarkozy, Britain's Cameron meet on Libya

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 13, 2011 4:07 PM
France's Sarkozy, Britain's Cameron meet on Libya

By Yann Le Guernigou

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy met British Prime Minister David Cameron in Paris on Wednesday to discuss Libya as the two countries try to persuade NATO partners to step up attacks on Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

The bilateral meeting, extended over a working dinner and including the French and British defense ministers Gerard Longuet and Liam Fox, was aimed at cementing the Franco-British position amid signs of cracks in the wider coalition, a French diplomatic source said.

The talks took place the same day that foreign ministers from the Western alliance led by France and Britain met in Qatar to try to break a deadlock in Libya's civil war.

Paris and London are increasingly frustrated that three weeks of air strikes have not tipped the balance of the war in favor of rebels trying to end Gaddafi's 41-year rule. They have also failed to end his shelling of the besieged city of Misrata.

"This is about summing up the situation and making sure France and Britain are on the same page," the French source said of Wednesday's talks, adding that no major decisions would be taken.

"Given the various proposals for a resolution, the idea is also to get them behind a single one to avoid Gaddafi taking advantage of nuances between the different ideas."

Downing Street said the French and British leaders discussed ways in which military pressure could be increased and would seek more action from NATO against Gaddafi's heavy weapons.

Britain is to supply 1,000 sets of body armor from surplus British defense supplies to Libyan rebels, on top of the 100 satellite phones already sent, it said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe this week criticized NATO for not doing enough to stop the bombing of Misrata and Longuet said he regretted the lack of actual military strikes by partners such as the United States.

"NATO is not able at this time to oblige partners to participate in this action. Like you, I deplore for example the fact that France and Britain are bearing the brunt of this effort, even if the United States is still providing essential aerial back-up," Longuet said during parliamentary questions on Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Leigh Thomas; Writing by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Angus MacSwan)