March 21, 2011

Arab League: Air strikes 'go too far'

Sunday 20 March 2011
Bill Benfield
Reprinted from

Arab League chief Amr Moussa heavily criticised the air strikes on Libya today, saying they had gone well beyond what the league had backed and were causing civilian deaths.

The Arab League's support for a no-fly zone last week was instrumental in overcoming reluctance at the United Nations for action in Libya.

The UN authorised not only a no-fly zone but also "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.

But Mr Moussa said the military operations had gone far beyond what the Arab League backed.

He said that "what happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives" and "what we wanted was civilians' protection, not shelling more civilians."

Security council member China, which was among five countries that abstained from Thursday's UN vote, also voiced disquiet, expressing "regret" over the air strikes.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that China "consistently disagrees with the use of force in international relations."

In a statement posted on the ministry's website, he said that China "hopes the situation in Libya resumes stability as soon as possible" to avoid escalation of a military conflict.

And fellow council member Russia went even further, calling on the international military force striking against Libyan targets to stop its "indiscriminate" use of violence.

A statement issued by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the air strikes exceeded the mandate of the security council resolution, which authorised necessary measures to protect civilians.

He said that the US and European air raids have hit non-military targets in the Libyan capital and three other cities.

As a result, he said, 48 civilians have been reported dead and more than 150 wounded, while a medical centre was partially destroyed.

Meanwhile, in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI issued an urgent appeal to military and political leaders to consider the safety of Libyan civilians and ensure that they have access to emergency aid.

The Pope said that the outbreak of hostilities had sparked "great fear and alarm in me" and said he was praying for peace in the region.

He directed his appeal to "those who have the political and military responsibility to take to heart the safety and security of citizens and guarantee that they have access to humanitarian aid."

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