UK: Britain must learn lessons from Libya crisis

AP News
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Posted: Dec 01, 2011 12:50 PM
UK: Britain must learn lessons from Libya crisis

Britain should consider changing its policy on recognizing self-declared nations after it lagged behind others in legitimizing the rebel council in Libya, the country's national security adviser said Thursday in a report on the conflict.

Along with recommendations for speedier operations to evacuate citizens from danger zones and a call for Britain to exert more influence within NATO, Peter Ricketts said London should re-examine the diplomatic cornerstone of recognizing states, not governments.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has repeatedly backed the long-standing diplomatic convention. During the Libya conflict, that meant that Britain followed France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and others in recognizing the National Transitional Council _ the organization that led the political work to unseat Moammar Gadhafi.

It was only in late July, with much of Libya under the council's control, that Britain moved to endorse it as the country's legitimate ruler.

"The U.K.'s long-standing policy is to recognize states, not governments. But in certain exceptional cases, such as happened with the NTC and Libya, HMG (Britain's government) should be ready to review and adapt such policies, even where deeply ingrained, where that is clearly in the U.K.'s interests to do so," Ricketts said.

Britain currently offers funds to, but does not formally recognize, self-declared nations including Somaliland and Puntland, both regions in Somalia that have declared autonomy.

The Foreign Office said it has no plans to offer recognition to either territory, or to make any sweeping reforms to its current rules. "These issues would be looked at on a case by case basis," a spokeswoman said, on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy.

The report by Ricketts offered the most detailed account yet of the British government's activity during the Libya crisis, detailing 190 meetings held by Britain's Cabinet, National Security Council and other committees.

Prime Minister David Cameron created the National Security Council after taking office in 2010, and said the conflict had "proved its worth."

The report praised work led by the committee on post-conflict stabilization _ an area highlighted as a major failure in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"Early decisions helped prevent a wide scale humanitarian crisis and encouraged action by the wider international community," Ricketts said in his report.