Clinton Says Arab League Vote for No-Fly Zone Changed Minds

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that since the Arab League backed a no-fly zone over Libya there has been a “sea change” in international opinion toward favoring the action.

“That has changed the thinking of a lot of people,” Clinton said in an interview with CBS News, taped in Cairo. “As we consult in New York on the UN resolution” to pursue a no-fly zone “there is a much greater openness than there was a week ago.”

She said that “we and others have made it clear that there must be Arab leadership and Arab participation. How that will be defined will depend in large measure on what the Security Council decides to call for.”

Lebanon’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nawaf Salam, said he would appeal today to the Security Council to authorize a no-fly zone over Libya, where leader Muammar Qaddafi’s forces are attacking rebel-held cities, and that Arab nations would play a “significant” role in its enforcement.

Clinton said it was crucial for the U.S. to act with allies. “I want to see what we can get out of the United Nations, because there is no way that the United States will take unilateral action on any of these issues," she told CBS News. ‘‘We are not going to act alone. There would be unforeseen consequences to that, that I believe would be detrimental.’’

Russia and China, who have questioned a no-fly zone at the UN, are reconsidering after the Arab League statement on Saturday, Clinton said. ‘‘I think they are willing to talk about what’s at stake here,’’ she said.

‘Sense of Urgency’

In a separate interview with the BBC, Clinton said there is ‘‘a sense of urgency that was precipitated by the Arab League’s courageous stand’’ on March 12. ‘‘We are well aware that the clock is ticking.’’

In the CBS interview, Clinton urged restraint by authorities in Bahrain, where security forces drove protesters from their rallying point at the central Pearl Roundabout in Manama, leaving two demonstrators and two police officers dead.

‘‘We find what’s happening in Bahrain alarming,’’ Clinton said. ‘‘We think that there is no security answer to the aspirations and demands of the demonstrators.’’

Bahrain is host to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, raising administration concerns that a change in regimes might disrupt the base, a bulwark against Iran’s attempts to expand its influence in the Persian Gulf.

‘Humanitarian Obligation’

‘‘We have made it very clear to the Bahraini government at the highest levels that we expect them to exercise restraint, we would remind them of their humanitarian obligation to keep medical facilities open and to facilitate the treatment of the injured, and to get back to the negotiating table,” Clinton said.

Clinton said the U.S. had delivered the same message of restraint to members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

“They are on the wrong track,” Clinton said. “The sooner they get back to the negotiating table and start trying to answer the legitimate needs of the people, the sooner there can be a resolution.”

Troops from the GCC, including Saudi Arabia, moved into Bahrain on March 14, the first cross-border intervention since a wave of popular uprisings swept through parts of the Arab world.

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