|Published:||Apr 12, 2011 7:31 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Apr 12, 2011 4:31 PM EDT|
LUXEMBOURG- France and Britain urged their NATO allies, including the United States, to step up the campaign Tuesday against Moammar Gadhafi's forces, exposing a major faultline in the military alliance after three weeks of airstrikes have failed to oust the Libyan leader.
Paris lamented the limited U.S. military role in Libya and chided Germany for its lack of involvement. In a dire analysis, France's defense minister acknowledged that without full American participation in the combat operation, the West probably can't stop Gadhafi's attacks on besieged rebel cities.
A top NATO general retorted that the alliance was "doing a great job."
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe shredded NATO's united front, saying its actions were "not enough" to ease the pressure on Libya's rebel-held city of Misrata, which has been subjected to weeks of bombardment by forces loyal to Gadhafi.
"NATO absolutely wanted to lead this operation. Well, voila, this is where we are," Juppe said. "It is unacceptable that Misrata can continue to be bombed by Gadhafi's troops."
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague agreed that the allies must "intensify" their efforts, but used a more diplomatic tone.
"The U.K. has in the last week supplied additional aircraft capable of striking ground targets threatening the civilian population of Libya," Hague said before a meeting of EU foreign ministers. "Of course, it will be welcome if other countries also do the same. There is always more to do."
He said the task was huge.
"Events in the Middle East are the most important events so far in the 21st century in the world, and the responsibility of the European Union is commensurate with the historic nature of those events," Hague said.
French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet deplored that France and Britain were carrying "the brunt of the burden." He complained that the reduced U.S. role - American forces are now in support, not combat, roles in the airstrike campaign - have made it impossible "to loosen the noose around Misrata," which has become a symbol of the resistance against Gadhafi.
France's frustration with the stalemate on the ground, where Libyan rebels have struggled to capitalize on Western air attacks, has been echoed in several Western capitals, but rarely were the comments as barbed as Juppe's.
"We have to be more efficient. When you hit Misrata with cannon fire, these cannons must be traceable and can thus be neutralized," he said.
The reduced U.S. role since NATO took over command on March 31 has clearly affected the operation.
"Let's be realistic. The fact that the U.S. has left the sort of the kinetic part of the air operation has had a sizable impact. That is fairly obvious," said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.
Libyan opposition spokesman Ali al-Issawi, meanwhile, said that Gadhafi's soldiers have killed about 10,000 people throughout the country and injured 30,000 others, with 7,000 of the injured facing life-threatening wounds. He said another 20,000 people were missing and suspected of being in Gadhafi's prisons.
There was no way to independently verify the report.
"We want more efforts to protect civilians against this aggression going on the ground," al-Issawi told reporters in Luxembourg
Longuet also criticized Germany, which is not taking part in the military operation, saying that Berlin's commitment to primarily back the humanitarian effort only was "secondary" at best.
Germany does not take part in NATO's military airstrikes in Libya because it sees the operation as too risky. Italy has also been reluctant to get involved in the airstrikes because it was Libya's colonial ruler.
NATO Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm sharply rejected French criticism of the operation in Libya, saying the North Atlantic military alliance is performing well and protecting civilians effectively. He said the alliance was successfully enforcing an arms embargo against Libya, patrolling a no-fly zone and protecting civilians there.
"With the assets we have, we're doing a great job," Van Uhm told reporters.
However, he repeatedly declined to comment on reports that some alliance members were limiting their planes to patrolling the no-fly zone and prohibiting them from dropping bombs, saying that was a matter for governments to comment on.
The 27-nation European Union said over the weekend it was ready to launch a humanitarian mission in Misrata soon, with possible military support, if it received a request from the U.N.
Britain, France and Italy all said some aid was getting through to Misrata without special military protection.
"Humanitarian assistance is getting through to Libya, including to Misrata. That, so far, has not needed military assistance to deliver it," Hague said.
IHH, an Islamic aid group in Turkey, said it would send an aid ship to Misrata on Wednesday carrying food, powdered milk, infant formula, medicines and a mobile health clinic. Separately, Van Uhm said two aid ships had already visited the city and another would arrive Tuesday.
The IHH has a mission to assist Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa. It deployed dozens of activists, including doctors, two days after the Libyan uprising began in February and established a tent city and a soup kitchen at a Libyan border crossing with Tunisia.
Meanwhile, Libya's former foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, was traveling to an international meeting in Doha, Qatar, to share his insight on the workings of Gadhafi's inner circle.
British officials said they hope Koussa's trip to Doha, where Arab and Western leaders are meeting to chart the way forward in Libya, will give participants a better idea of how to force Gadhafi out of office.
"He's a Gadhafi insider. He may be able to offer solutions where others are falling short," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Hague is co-chairing the meeting with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad Bin Jabr Al Thani.
Koussa had been held at a safe house since he fled to Britain late last month, but agents from Britain's external intelligence agency MI6 stopped questioning him last week, according to the British official. Britain's Foreign Office said Koussa was "a free individual, who can travel to and from the U.K. as he wishes."
Noman Benotman, a relative of Koussa's, said he believed Koussa had "cleared most of the legal hurdles in the U.K." surrounding his alleged involvement in the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing and Libya's arming of the Irish Republican Army.
Angela Charlton in Paris, Selcan Hacaoglu in Turkey, Adam Schreck in Doha, Qatar, and Paisley Dodds and Raphael G. Satter in London contributed to this report
(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Invasive cockroach found in NYC can take the cold
- Big storm dumps snow on East Coast, travel dicey
- Obama to pay tribute to Mandela in South Africa
- Senate Dems push Obama nominees, GOP bides time
- Study: Erratic TV violence ratings fail parents
- Senators: Put cameras on train tracks, engineers
- Congress ready to extend ban on plastic firearms