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Friday, March 11, 2011

While Libya burns

With Barack Obama convinced of American unexceptionalism and unwilling to take the lead, Libyan rebels worry that by the time the 'international community' decides to take action on their behalf, they will be gone.
Fears among Libyan opposition groups that they will be defeated by the time Europe and the US agree on a course of action were heightened when:

• Nato was left paralysed as the US joined Germany in blocking the imposition of a no-fly zone supported by Britain and France. Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said at a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels that contingency planning for a no-fly zone would continue, before adding "that's the extent of it".

Adding to the sense of diplomatic and political disarray, the AFP news agency reported that French president Nicolas Sarkozy will propose air strikes on Gaddafi's command headquarters to EU leaders. There was no confirmation by Sarkozy's office.

• Britain and France, which led the calls for today's emergency summit in the face of scepticism from Germany, differed on how to deal with the rebels. William Hague shared the irritation of some of his counterparts at a foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels when it was announced in Paris that France was recognising the Transitional National Council as the "only legitimate representative of the Libyan people". Hague spoke by phone with Mahmoud Jabril, the council's special envoy, who is expected to attend tomorrow's EU summit. But Hague pointedly said: "That leadership are legitimate people to talk to, of course, but we recognise states rather than groups within states."

• David Cameron and Sarkozy are also expected to clash today over the future of EU funding for north Africa and the Middle East. Britain wants to withhold £1bn in annual EU support for the region unless greater democracy is introduced. France is strongly opposed to the proposal which it regards as an assault on funding which benefits Francophone countries.

• The Royal Navy is preparing a series of detailed contingency plans that could see more British ships being sent to the Libyan coast if ministers require them, the Commander of the Fleet has told the Guardian. In an exclusive interview, Admiral Sir Trevor Soar said that one option available to the government would be to deploy the Response Force Task Group – a new type of flexible unit that comprises up to six different support and warships.
What could go wrong?

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