Uprising enters critical phase as Gaddafi loyalists lay siege to rebel strongholds, stoking rumours and uncertainty.
Members of the UN Security Council have failed to reach a consensus on a possible no-fly zone over Libya despite calls for the measure from the international community and rebels waging a campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s decades-long rule.
The Arab League, Britain and France – both permanent Security Council members – have called for a no-fly zone to be enforced to prevent rebels from aerial bombardment.
European and Arab envoys emphasised the need for urgent UN action against an offensive by Gaddafi loyalists on opposition forces which is gaining new ground every day.
But diplomats said the Security Council would need several days to agree new action because of disagreements between international powers.
Scott Heidler, Al Jazeera’s correspondent at the UN headquarters in New York, said the Security Council had billed the meeting as a discussion on the no-fly zone resolution.
“The meeting lasted about three hours. They were taking the temperature of members to see what kind of draft they can put together now,” he said.
“Maybe in couple of days we will see some kind of draft resolution but there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome.”
Questions need answering
Britain and France are reportedly drawing up a draft no-fly zone resolution and their efforts have been boosted by Arab League support. Russia and China are leading opposition while the United States, Germany and others have doubts.
After the meeting Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow is “open-minded” but wants answers first to questions.
“As far as we are concerned there are some fundamental questions that need to be answered,” Churkin told reporters as he left the Security Council talks.
“If there is a no-fly zone, who is going to implement the no-fly zone? How (is) the no-fly zone is going to be implemented?” he asked.
Germany has also raised doubts about the proposal. “Questions were raised and some of the questions were not answered,” said German envoy Peter Wittig who called for “more pressure” to be put on Gaddafi through political and economic sanctions.
France’s UN Ambassador Gerard Araud said there were legitimate concerns, but he said there is an urgency because forces loyal to Gaddafi are advancing.
Araud said a resolution on an exclusion zone was still possible this week. “There was no total refusal. There were concerns, there were questions, but I think we are moving forward,” Araud told reporters.
“I think the problem for us is the urgency. As you know the Gaddafi forces are moving forward so we would prefer to act as quickly as possible,” he said.
Lebanon, the Arab state on the 15-nation council which asked for Monday’s meeting, also stressed the time factor.
“I am relatively pessimistic about the situation on the ground,” said Lebanese envoy Nawaf Salam, who said the Security Council had to react to “an urgent situation.”
The topic also dominated talks between foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations in Paris on Monday, including Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, ahead of a formal dinner to kick off the first gathering of France’s G8 presidency.
Since the revolt against Gaddafi’s rule begain on February 14, the Security Council has ordered a travel ban and asset freeze against the long-time leader and members of his regime.
It also ordered an arms embargo against Libya and an investigation into suspected crimes against humanity over Gaddafi’s crackdown on opposition protests.