A no-fly zone over Libya needs to be authorized immediately by the United Nations Security Council to prevent two new offensives by the Qaddafi regime from killing thousands of rebels and civilians, a Libyan envoy said.
“We think in the coming hours we will see a real genocide if the international community does not move quickly,” Libya’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Ibrahim Dabbashi, who is allied with the rebel movement, told reporters in New York. “We are counting on international forces to limit the number of victims.”
Dabbashi said he has information that forces loyal to Qaddafi are preparing to launch major offensives in eastern and western Libya. He said they have instructions to destroy everything in their path and that the Security Council needs to impose the no-fly zone and go further -- authorizing air attacks on Qaddafi’s ground troops -- within“10 hours.”
A vote in the security council on some measures may come tomorrow, officials said.
Qaddafi has a “large number of mercenaries” from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Chad who are moving east in a convoy of 400 vehicles toward the rebel stronghold in Benghazi, Dabbashi said. In Western Libya, he said, another force is preparing to execute “ethnic cleansing” on villages that have rebelled.
Dabbashi spoke as the Security Council debated a draft resolution authorizing a no-fly zone and strengthening of existing sanctions on Libya intended to block the participation of mercenaries and cut off any movement of arms to government forces. The text as presented yesterday by Britain, France and Lebanon would not authorize attacks on Qaddafi’s ground troops.
“It is high time for the international community, through the Security Council, to pull together in order to draw the logical conclusions from this situation and respond without delay to the urgent appeal of the League of Arab States,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a letter today to leaders of the Security Council’s 15 member governments.
“France solemnly calls on all the members of the Security Council to fully shoulder their responsibilities and give support to this initiative,” Sarkozy said in the letter. “Together, we can save the martyred people of Libya. It is now a matter of days, if not hours.”
Momentum in the monthlong conflict has shifted toward the Qaddafi regime. His forces have used armor and planes to drive back the insurgents. Qaddafi’s warplanes today attacked the airport in Benghazi, the rebel stronghold.
Ban ‘Gravely Concerned’
“Our goal is to have a resolution before the end of the week and, if possible, before tomorrow night,” France’s Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters before the Security Council meeting.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “gravely concerned about the increasing military escalation by government forces, which include indications of an assault on the city of Benghazi,” the UN said in a statement released in New York. “A campaign to bombard such an urban center would massively place civilian lives at risk.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today in Cairo that Arab participation was critical. “The Arab League statement, their very courageous stance, suggests that they know that they have to step up and lead and participate in any action,” Clinton said in an interview on CBS News.
Lebanon’s Ambassador to the UN Nawaf Salam said a “number” of Arab countries are committed to help enforce the no-fly zone and that “significant participation has been confirmed from the highest political authorities.” He declined to be more specific.
Dabbashi said five Arab nations have agreed to contribute to the no-fly zone, and diplomats said that group would include Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
“I am sure you heard Saif al-Islam Qaddafi’s statement that in two days they will be in Benghazi,” Salam told reporters before the council met. “I hope the Security Council will prove him wrong on two counts: that there will be no rivers of blood and that the council will act swiftly and have a no-fly zone and other measures to protect the civilian population.”
Qaddafi, son of Libya’s leader Muammar Qaddafi, said on state-run television that government forces were closing on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
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