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Hague satisfied with progress in Libyan mission despite NATO failing to share burden

Tim Montgomerie

William Hague used the 8.10am interview on the Today programme to update Radio 4 listeners on the Libya campaign.

The Foreign Secretary was speaking from Qatar where nations are gathering to consider strengthening sanctions against Gaddafi's regime and also to set up a new funding mechanism for the opposition groups in eastern Libya. Britain, Mr Hague said, would not be contributing to this funding mechanism.

Pressed repeatedly to put some kind of timetable on the mission, Mr Hague declined to do so. The Foreign Secretary simply insisted that it was not a question of "if" Gaddafi would go but "when". He said he was satisfied with what had already been achieved:

  • Thousands of lives in Benghazi had been saved, he said, and a humanitarian tragedy avoided by the speedy action of the international community.
  • We had prevented Gaddafi winning control over the whole of Libya again and therefore establishing a pariah state on the edge of Europe - exporting terror and refugees - and destabilising the region.
  • The opposition was growing in strength and in their commitment to a democratic future for Libya they were demonstrating that they were not the unknown quantity that some suggested.

Mr Hague denied that the aim of the military mission was to deliver regime change. That was not possible under the terms of the UN mandate, he said, but the vast majority of the world did think Gaddafi should go and, in time, he would.

Despite the UN resolution few countries are contributing military firepower to the mission. France and Britain are doing the bulk of the work. This is causing frustration in London and Paris and William Hague yesterday called on NATO, which is overseeing operations, to "intensify" efforts. His French counterpart, Alain Juppe, was stronger on Monday. Misrata has come under renewed shelling from Gaddafi's forces and Juppe said that NATO's efforts were "not enough" and that the heavy weapons bombarding Misrata needed to be taken out: "NATO must play its role fully. It wanted to take the lead in operations, we accepted that." The UN resolution is in danger of producing the worst of all worlds - it is limiting the abilty of France and Britain to go after Gaddafi but isn't producing a depth of international commitment. This is becoming a common problem with NATO. Over a number of years, only a few countries have been undertaking the heavy fighting in Afghanistan.

On Today, Mr Hague said that it was not for him to charge Musa Kusa with war crimes. Yesterday Tory MP Robert Halfon had complained that Britain must not be used as "a transit lounge for alleged war criminals" after it had emerged that the former Libyan foreign minister was being allowed to move freely in and out of Britain. Musa Kusa is on the loosa, cries today's Sun. Given Kusa's suspected involvement in the Lockerbie bomb the relaxed view of his status is drawing anger from the relatives of the victims of that tragedy.


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