Divisions have emerged within Europe about whether to support a U.S.-led coalition carrying out air and missile strikes on Libya to enforce a U.N.-authorized no-fly zone.
The NATO alliance was due to meet Monday in Brussels to discuss the possibility of taking command of the no-fly zone operation after 28 alliance members failed to reach a consensus on the issue a day earlier.
The prime minister of NATO member Turkey said Monday that Ankara has set several conditions for the alliance to participate in the military action. Speaking on a visit to Saudi Arabia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a NATO operation must not turn into an occupation. He said NATO must ensure that “Libya belongs to the Libyans” and that the country’s natural resources and wealth are not distributed to other nations.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin strongly criticized the no-fly zone Monday, echoing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in saying it resembled “mediaeval crusade.” Russian President Dmitri Medvedev later criticized his prime minister’s remark as “unacceptable.”
Another NATO member, Germany, defended its decision not to participate. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Monday that Berlin sees the operation as risky. He said criticism of the operation from Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa vindicates Germany’s position.
Moussa said Sunday “what happened in Libya differs from the objectives of a no-fly zone” and that the Arab League wants “civilians to be protected, not bombed.” He appeared to shift his position Monday, however, when he said the Arab League “respects” the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized the no-fly zone last week.
Moussa was speaking at a joint news conference with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Cairo. Ban said it is important that the international community speaks with one voice to implement the U.N. resolution.
A group protesting in support of Libyan leader Gadhafi converged on Ban as he tried to leave a Cairo venue in which he met with Arab League officials. The mob surged toward Ban and his delegation, forcing them to retreat back inside the building.