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Middle East
Kerry urges Libya no-fly zone plan
Chairman of US senate foreign relations committee says such plan should be readied to protect population from Gaddafi.
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2011 01:30 GMT
While rebel groups push for a no-fly zone, they claim to be against foreign ground troops in Libya [Reuters]

A prominent US senator has said that the United States and its allies should plan for a no-fly zone over Libya and consider bombing the country's airports and runways.

John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the comments on Sunday, but added that no action should be taken unless an international agreement is reached.

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He also said that taking out runways and airports could be an effective tactic, and added that a no-fly zone would not amount to full-blown military intervention.

He said, however, that moving against Libyan air defences should only be done if Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, were to use his air force as a means to target civilians.

Other US politicians have also made similar calls for military action on Libya, amid reluctance from the White House and
US defence officials, who argue that taking out Libya's air defences would be tantamount to declaring a war.

Air defences 'antiquated'

``Lots of people throw around phrases of `no-fly zone' and they talk about it as though it's just a game, a video game or something. Some people who throw that line out have no idea what they're talking about,'' White House chief of staff William Daley said.

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Republican senator John McCain has said sending in ground troops would not be appropriate at this point, but that implementing a no-fly zone would not be difficult because Libya's air defences "are somewhat antiquated".

He also said it would send a signal to Gaddafi "that the president is serious when he says we need for Gaddafi to go, [and] it would be encouraging to the resistance, who are certainly outgunned from the air".'

Muhamed Sacirbey, the former Bosnian ambassador to the UN, told Al Jazeera that, in considering a no-fly zone over Libya, the 1990s Balkans conflict should not be compared to the current situation.

"Bosnia, is Europe, Libya is North Africa. These are totally different circumstances, but it is also worth considering that inaction may be just as problematic," he said.

The Obama administration has said that all options are on the table, but that any military action must be an international effort.

Robert Gates, US defence secretary, has cautioned last week that an attack on Libya could drag his country into another conflict, even as nearly 150,000 American troops continue to battle in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Calls for help

But a Libyan rebel leader in the town of Misurata, which in recent days has seen fierce fighting, has called for an urgent external help.

Mohammed Ali,  member of the civil committee for Misurata affairs, told Al Jazeera that a no-fly zone is "long overdue," and that a "selective surgical strike" is needed to take out Gaddafi's aerial capabilities.

Meanwhile, Liam Fox, the British defence secretary told local media on Sunday that any talks about establishing a no-fly zone over Libya are at "the early stage of contingency planning".

He also said that more details will be discussed by NATO defence leaders at a meeting in the Belgian capital Brussels later this week.

He added that "there was no and there is no plan to use British land forces'' in Libya.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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