With the U.N. Security Council locked in negotiations over the terms of a no-fly zone over Libya, the Obama administration is seeking greater U.N. authority to confront Muammar al-Qaddafi's forces by land, air, and sea, while insisting on a central role for Arab governments in carrying out any possible military action.
While it remained unclear whether the U.S. or other governments are making plans to unleash military force against Qaddafi's government, the move marked a serious escalation in the United States' position toward intervention.
"We are interested in a broad range of action which will protect civilians and halt the killings," said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "We are discussing very seriously and leading efforts in the council around a range of actions which we believe could be effective in protecting civilians, including a no-fly zone." But she said the council needs to be "prepared to contemplate steps that include, but go beyond a no-fly zone."
On Tuesday, Lebanon, Britain, and France introduced a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would grant sweeping authority to the international community to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya and use "all necessary measures," including military force, to protect civilians and grant access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, according to a confidential draft of the resolution obtained by Turtle Bay.
But the United States introduced an amendment this afternoon that would broaden the scope for military action by authorizing states to halt "attacks by air, land and sea forces under the control of the Qaddafi regime," according to a copy of the confidential paper obtained by Turtle Bay.
The U.S. also introduced another amendment that highlights the importance of Arab participation in any potential military operations. The amendment "recognizes the important role of the Arab League in the region … and requests the member states of the Arab League to cooperate with other member states in the implementation" of the resolution. The United States also sought to include language that would require, rather than call upon states, to assist in implementing the resolution's measures, "including any necessary over-flight approvals."
The U.S. diplomatic initiative in New York came as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed the Security Council to reach agreement on a new resolution. "We hope that there will be a resolution of the discussions and a decision made very soon in order to enable us to protect innocent lives in Libya," Clinton told the BBC today. "It has to be international and authorized. And then we have to be very clear about what Arab leadership and participation will be."
Libya's renegade deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, meanwhile, sought to prod the council to move swiftly to adopt the resolution, saying the 15-nation council needed to decide within 10 hours to avoid the large-scale killing of civilians.
Dabbashi claimed Qaddafi's forces were preparing offensives against the eastern town of Ajdabiya and an eastern cluster of mountain villages -- Jado, Yafran, and Nalout. "We think that Colonel Qaddafi today has lost his mind," said Dabbashi. "We think that in the future and in the coming hours we will see a real genocide.
"The Libyan people is looking to the Security Council to adopt a resolution as soon as possible and to authorize airstrikes on the forces of Colonel Qaddafi, especially those forces which have a clear intention which is to destroy villages" in eastern and western Libya.
The Russian government, meanwhile, introduced a provision into the U.N. draft resolution under negotiation that would demand government and rebel forces implement an immediate cease-fire. If the cease-fire doesn't hold, Russia would then be willing to "consider urgently and as appropriate the necessary measures," including a no-fly zone, "to ensure such a ceasefire and promote a lasting stabilization of the situation" in Libya.
Here is a list of the Russian amendments:
[The U.N. Security Council:]
1. Demands an immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and any attacks against civilians:
2. Stresses the need to find a lasting peaceful resolution of the situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya;
3. Underlines the need to ensure a full and timely implementation of its resolution 1970 (2011) by all parties concerned:
4. Decides, in case the abovementioned ceasefire is not respect, to consider urgently and as appropriate the necessary measures, in accordance with its responsibility under the United Nations Charter, to ensure such a ceasefire and promote a lasting stabilization of the situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya with a view to its peaceful resolution;
5. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.
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