UN urges mass Libyan evacuation
The UN has called for a mass humanitarian evacuation of people fleeing Libya for Tunisia, saying the border situation is at “crisis point”.
General Secretary Ban Ki-moon said thousands of lives were at stake. Some 75,000 people have fled to Tunisia since the unrest began and 40,000 more are waiting to cross, the UN says. (BBC)
Panic on borders as chaos engulfs Libya
The Libyans watched from an open window of the immigration post, leaning out to see the 20,000 fleeing Egyptian, Bangladeshi, Chinese and Iranian workers heaped up against the border wall. They seemed quite unconcerned, shirt-sleeves rolled up, moving to a window closer to this crowd. Already up to 75,000 have struggled into Tunisia, but yesterday the crossing system collapsed as thousands of men, almost all Arabs desperate to escape Muammar Gaddafi’s state, fought with local Tunisians who – under the eyes of the army – attacked them with stakes and iron bars.
Many of the soldiers hurled plastic water bottles and biscuits into the masses of refugees who began to jump the border wall in their desperation, heaving family members and baggage through breaks in the cement. Clichés run out when faced with such chaos and unnecessary suffering. “Insupportable” was the word that came to mind yesterday. Most of these 20,000 had gone without food, water or sleep for four days. How is it possible that people should suffer so greatly at a mere border post? (Robert Fisk)
Libyan rebels, invoking U.N., may ask West for airstrikes
In a sign of mounting frustration among rebel leaders at Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s diminished but unyielding grip on power, the revolutionary council here is debating whether to ask for Western airstrikes on some of the regime’s most important military assets under a United Nations banner, according to four people with knowledge of the council’s deliberations.
By invoking the United Nations, the council, made up lawyers, academics, judges and other prominent figures, is seeking to draw a distinction between the airstrikes and foreign intervention, which the rebels say they emphatically oppose.
“He destroyed the army. We have two or three planes,” said Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, the council’s spokesman, speaking of the rebels’ military disadvantage. He refused to comment on the council’s deliberations or any imminent announcement, but said: “If it is with the United Nations, it is not a foreign intervention.”
But that distinction is lost on many people, and any call for foreign military help carries great risks. The anti-government protesters in Libya, like their counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt, have drawn broad popular support — and great pride — from their status as homegrown movements that toppled autocrats without outside help. An intervention, even one with the imprimatur of the United Nations, could play into the hands of Colonel Qaddafi, who has called the uprising a foreign plot by Western powers seeking to occupy Libya.
“If he falls with no intervention, I’d be happy,” said one senior council official. “But if he’s going to commit a massacre, my priority is to save my people.”
There was no indication that the United Nations Security Council members would approve such a request, or that Libyans seeking to topple Colonel Qaddafi would welcome it. Russia has dismissed talk of a no-fly zone to curb Colonel Qaddafi’s still-active air force, and China has traditionally voted against foreign intervention. (New York Times)
Musa Kusa, Libya’s ‘envoy of death,’ escapes UN sanctions list
Musa Kusa, the Libyan foreign minister who became known as “the envoy of death,” is not on the United Nations sanctions list, a notable omission that has lit up the exile tweetersphere.
Kusa earned the grisly moniker years ago for his role in assassinating and kidnapping opposition figures abroad. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks Kusa, Gadaffi’s intelligence chief at the time, was directed to cooperate with the CIA on terrorism. The U.S.-educated Kusa reprised the role when the strongman decided to dismantle his weapons of mass destruction programs in exchange for lifting sanctions against the country for its role in the 1989 downing of PanAm Flight 103.
Western diplomats and White House officials described the Libyan sanction list as “dynamic,” meaning Kusa could be included on it at a later date. (Jeff Stein)
Clinton: Libya no-fly zone under active consideration
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that the administration is actively considering implementing a no-fly zone over Libya and gave a full-throated defense of robust State Department funding.
Clinton testified on Tuesday morning before the House Foreign Affairs Committee led by Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who has been critical of the administration’s response to the unfolding events in the Arab world and has pledged to slash the State Department and foreign aid budgets this year. (Foreign Policy)
Cameron backtracks on Libya no-fly zone plan as US distances itself
Britain has backtracked from its belligerent military stance over Libya after the Obama administration publicly distanced itself from David Cameron’s suggestion that Nato should establish a no-fly zone over the country and that rebel forces should be armed.
As senior British military sources expressed concern that Downing Street appeared to be overlooking the dangers of being sucked into a long and potentially dangerous operation, the prime minister said Britain would go no further than contacting the rebel forces at this stage.
The marked change of tone by the prime minister, who told MPs on Monday that Britain did not “in any way rule out the use of military assets”, came as the British-educated son of Muammar Gaddafi mocked Cameron for trying to act as a hero. Saif al-Islam told Sky News: “Everybody wants to be a hero, to be important in history.” (The Guardian)
Ali Abunimah tweets: With the parlous state of the RAF I doubt the UK could impose a no-fly zone over the UK, let alone Libya.