Libya attacks criticised by Arab League, China, Russia and India
The air strikes launched by Western allies against Libya have been condemned by the head of a regional group for Arab states as well as China, Russia and India.
By Martin Beckford 7:00AM GMT 21 Mar 2011
They said that the “indiscriminate” bombing raids went further than the no-fly zone agreed by the United Nations as a way of preventing Col Gaddafi’s attacks on rebel forces, and risked harming civilians.
The criticisms by the head of the Arab League, in particular, risk undermining the legitimacy of the military action taken by France, Britain, Canada and the US, since the organisation had previously demanded the imposition of a no-fly zone.
A week ago the Arab League had said that the Gaddafi regime had “lost legitimacy” as it sought to crush the uprising sweeping Libya following protests for democracy in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen this year.
But following Saturday’s missile launches and jet strikes, the Arab League’s Secretary General, Amr Moussa said: “What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone and what we want is the protection of civilians and not bombing other civilians.
“From the start we requested only that a no-fly zone be set up to protect Libyan civilians and avert any other developments or additional measures.”
However it was later claimed that he had been misquoted, with sources suggesting he had merely meant to reiterate his insistence that civilians should be protected and not harmed under the UN resolution.
The Egyptian presidential candidate also said that an emergency meeting of the 22-member Arab League would be convened to discuss the crisis in Libya.
Meanwhile three of the five countries that abstained from the critical vote by the UN Security Council on Thursday, which authorised military action short of an occupying force on the ground, issued statements claiming that the bombing raids went far further than the agreed aims of enforcing a no-fly zone and protecting civilians.
A Russian foreign ministry spokesman called for a ceasefire, claiming the Western air raids had hit non-military targets, killing 48 civilians and wounding more than 150 as well as damaging a medical centre.
“In this connection, we are calling on the respective states to halt the indiscriminate use of force,” the spokesman said.
China, which frequently faces criticism over its own suppression of democracy movements, said it “regretted” the military action and respected Libya’s sovereignty.
A foreign ministry statement said: “China has noted the latest developments in Libya and expresses regret over the military attacks on Libya.
“We hope Libya can restore stability as soon as possible and avoid further civilian casualties due to an escalation of armed conflict,” it added.
The government in New Delhi added to the criticism, saying in a statement: “India views with grave concern the continuing violence, strife and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya.
“It regrets the air strikes that are taking place. The measures adopted should mitigate and not exacerbate an already difficult situation for the people of Libya.”
Germany and Brazil were the other two countries to abstain from the UN vote, but the German foreign minister has denied that his country has been left isolated internationally.
Guido Westerwelle said: “The impression that Germany is isolated in Europe or the international community is completely wrong.
“Many other countries in the European Union not only understand our position, not only respect it, but also share it.”
Despite the statements made by the head of the Arab League, Qatar was expected to join the international operation against Libya by deploying aircraft.
The prime minister of the small oil-rich emirate, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, said its aim was to “stop the bloodbath”.
The United Arab Emirates was also said to be sending F-16s to join the Italian command at an air bases on Sardinia.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “Unlike Gaddafi, the coalition is not attacking civilians.
“The UN resolution authorises all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people. For the No Fly Zone to be enforced safely, it is necessary to carry out carefully targeted operations against Libyan air defence capabilities.
“All missions are meticulously planned to ensure every care is taken to avoid civilian casualties.
“We will continue to work with our Arab partners to enforce the resolution for the good of the Libyan people.”