David Blackburn

To strike or not to strike?

To strike or not to strike?
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The situation in Libya is still uncertain, but the fog of war is clearing to expose a depressing picture. Forces loyal to the Gaddafi regime are conducting a successful offensive. The Times’ Deborah Haynes confirms reports (£) that Zawiya has fallen and rebels have been forced from the oil town of Ras Lanuf.

William Hague has spoken to Mahmoud Jabril, Special Envoy of the Libyan Transitional Council. The Foreign Office has issued a communiqué on the conversation and some of Jabril’s emotional concern escapes the bland text. In the words of the Foreign Office, he wants ‘the West to act to hinder Qadhafi's ability to inflict further violence on the Libyan people, including through a no fly zone.’

The rebels’ vulnerability has galvanised foreign governments. European Foreign Ministers and Nato defence ministers have met to plan their response. Nato is in favour off an "active" arms embargo on Gaddafi, rather than a no-fly zone. But President Sarkozy, who could do with a 'good war' to restore his political fortunes ahead of next year's election, is poised to call for a targeted bombing campaign, which would suggest that some plans exceed a straight forward no-fly zone.

But, could any intervention be legitimate without a UN resolution? Sir John Major, so often a kite-runner for David Cameron on sensitive issues, discussed the question on Sky News earlier today. He said:

‘We may or may not be able to get a UN resolution. Desirable, if we can get. Not absolutely essential, I think. But what is essential is we would need support from the Arab States, they would need to take part, the Gulf cooperation council have said they favour a no-fly zone so presumably they would back rapid action. We are, I hope, talking to the African Union and the Arab league. Clearly, you’d need a pretty wide coalition of the willing if there was not to be a UN resolution, and it does look as though a resolution is difficult at the moment.’

diplomatic sources