Bill Clinton Says U.S. Should Support a No-Fly Zone to Help Libyan Rebels

The U.S. should support a no-fly zone over Libya to help underequipped insurgents fighting to topple well-armed and well-paid troops loyal to dictator Muammar Qaddafi, former U.S. president Bill Clinton said.

“They are not asking for ground troops, they don’t want us to get in the fight,” Clinton said of the insurgents at a conference in New York yesterday on the status of women. “Nobody wants to see an arms race in Libya, but it’s not a fair fight.”

Clinton said he was “sympathetic” to the Obama administration’s desire not to enforce a no-fly zone alone. Clinton noted that similar efforts had worked in the past, both in Bosnia and Iraq during his own presidency.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cautioned earlier yesterday against rushing to adopt a no-fly zone over Libya to protect anti-Qaddafi rebels and said that the U.S. must work with the international community.

“Absent international authorization, the United States acting alone would be stepping into a situation the consequences of which would be unforeseeable,” Hillary Clinton said.

The U.S. is spending $110 billion a year to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the former President said, and should be able to contribute to enforcing an air blockade over Libya.

“If the leaders are on television pleading for it, I think that we should do it,” Bill Clinton said of the Libyan insurgents. He said the U.S. should say to the Libyan people, “If you want any assistance we will give it to you, and if you want us to stay home we will.”

No-Fly Zones

The no-fly zone over Iraq “did not prevent Saddam Hussein from slaughtering people on the ground and it did not get him out of office,” Hillary Clinton said before a House Appropriations subcommittee.

Iraqi Kurds were kept safe from Saddam’s air force by the air blockade, which helped them develop a viable and democratic enclave there, Bill Clinton said.

The former president also said one reason the U.S. should remain engaged in Afghanistan is to keep women from suffering under a potential return to the oppressive rule of the Taliban.

Bill Clinton spoke in an interview with Newsweek editor-in- chief Tina Brown at the Women in the World conference.

To contact the reporters on this story: Peter S. Green in New York at psgreen@bloomberg.net; Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joanna Ossinger at jossinger@bloomberg.net

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