Libyan crown prince urges no-fly zone, air strikes

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 9:28 AM
Libyan crown prince urges no-fly zone, air strikes

By Erika Solomon

DUBAI (Reuters) - Libya's exiled crown prince asked foreign powers Wednesday to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and strike Muammar Gaddafi's air defenses, but said the Libyan people would not want international forces on the ground.

Mohammed El Senussi, whose family was overthrown by Gaddafi in a 1969 coup that abolished the monarchy, said a no-fly zone would prevent more bloodshed in the north African country, where rebels are struggling to topple the Libyan leader.

Some of the insurgents have raised the red, black and green flag of Libya from before the coup, but none of the opposition movements has called for a restoration of the monarchy.

"I am speaking for all Libyans when I ask for a no-fly zone and targeted air strikes on Gaddafi's air defenses," Senussi told journalists by telephone from his home in London.

"The no-fly zone would be the responsibility of the international community," he added. "But we reject any foreign intervention in the form of troops on the ground."

With the international community still hesitant about how to respond to the crisis in Libya, a counter-offensive by Gaddafi has halted a rebel advance in the east and left other rebels stranded in the western cities of Zawiyah and Misrata.

The former royal family comes from the eastern region.

Forces loyal to Gaddafi, who has said he would die in Libya rather than surrender, closed in on rebels in the western city of Zawiyah Wednesday, surrounding them with tanks in the main square.

"We need less talk and more action. This is not a crisis to be discussed in committees while men, women and children are being slaughtered indiscriminately, and action is needed as soon as possible," Senussi said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear that Washington believes imposing a no-fly zone is a matter for the United Nations and should not be a U.S.-led initiative.

Asked if he believed a no-fly zone would suffice to prevent further bloodshed, the exiled prince said: "Yes, because Gaddafi now is relying completely on his air force for striking the innocent Libyan people. If there was a no-fly zone, he wouldn't be able to use those forces."

Senussi's great-uncle, King Idris, and his father, Hassan El Senussi, then the crown prince, were overthrown in 1969. The royal family was held under house arrest for years and was allowed to leave Libya for Britain in 1988.

Senussi said he had no immediate plans to return to Libya, calling the move premature.

"What concerns me right now is ending the killing and bloodshed, that's more important than my return."

"Brave people from every tribe and every region of Libya tell me the situation is getting worse by the hour," he said, adding he was in contact with the rebels.

(Writing by Cynthia Johnston and Erika Solomon, editing by Paul Taylor)