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AU ministers say UN Libya move 'dangerous precedent'
by Staff Writers
United Nations (AFP) June 15, 2011

The African Union warned the UN Security Council on Wednesday that UN resolutions allowing air strikes on Libya may have set a "dangerous precedent."

African ministers attending a UN Security Council meeting on the Libya conflict called for a "humanitarian pause" in the fighting and greater efforts to reach a political solution between Moamer Kadhafi and opposition rebels.

Mauritania's Foreign Minister Hamady Ould Hamady, speaking for an AU delegation, did not directly mention the NATO strikes but highlighted African concerns about what he called the "dangerous precedent being set by the one-sided interpretations" of UN resolutions on Libya.

Highlighting what he called "the indescribable suffering inflicted upon the Libyan civilian population," the minister said: "The prolongation of these military operations in Libya poses, each day, new challenges as much for the chances of a successful democratic transition in Libya as for the security and stability of the countries in the region."

South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane had prepared a speech accusing NATO of deliberately targeting Kadhafi in the air strikes allowed by UN resolution 1973 but in the end did not make the comments which were distributed in advance of the meeting.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma did say this week that NATO had exceeded the mandate given by the resolutions.

As one of the 15 Security Council members, South Africa voted for resolution 1970 and 1973 in March which allowed the operation to protect civilians in Libya.

In the prepared comments, Nkoana-Mashabane said "our intention was never regime change nor was it the targeting of individuals as it seems to be the case with Colonel Kadhafi."

South Africa, Brazil and India have raised strong doubts about a European resolution condemning the Syrian government's clampdown, partly because of events in Libya.

In the end there was no criticism of NATO in the South African minister's speech at the closed doors meeting, diplomats said.

NATO has strongly denied that it has targeted Kadhafi. Western governments have insisted they are operating within the UN resolution allowing the protection of Libyan civilians.

"The actions of a broad coalition of partners have protected civilians, saved lives, and averted a humanitarian disaster, especially in Benghazi and Misrata," Britain's UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the meeting.

"But Kadhafi continues to launch attacks against his own people. So long as he continues to do so, the coalition will take action to enforce the Security Council's resolutions." He called NATO's decision to extend its operations by 90 days from 27 June "welcome and necessary."

European governments and the United States are increasingly insistent however that they see no permanent solution to the Libya conflict while Kadhafi remains in power.

South Africa and the African Union did call for greater efforts to reach a ceasefire between Kadhafi and opposition rebels.

"We are here to make a plea for an immediate humanitarian pause, in order that the pressing needs of affected populations can be met, a pause that should be followed by a ceasefire linked to the political process," said the Mauritanian foreign minister.

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NATO chief shares US concerns over funding gulf
London (AFP) June 16, 2011 - NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Thursday echoed fears voiced by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates that the gulf between US and European funding threatens to weaken the alliance.

In comments to The Guardian newspaper, Rasmussen agreed that the disparity in funding would lead to a chasm between the technological capabilities of the US and other member nations, throwing future co-operation into doubt.

He highlighted data showing that 10 years ago, US defence investment represented almost half of all defence expenditure in the alliance, whereas today it stood at 75 percent.

"This increasing economic gap may also lead to an increasing technology gap, which will almost hamper the inter-operability between our forces," he told the paper.

"The Americans provide still more advanced military assets and equipment; the Europeans are lagging behind. And eventually it will be difficult to co-operate even if you had the political will to co-operate," he added.

The NATO chief issued a stark warning that unless European partners "stepped up to the plate" then the funding disparity would "weaken our alliance" in the long-term and create a "two-tiered alliance".

On Wednesday Gates told a Senate panel that the under-investment by other NATO member states could eventually force the US to leave the alliance.

"The reality is that, as they cut their defense budgets, and... have not been investing in their defense capabilities for a number of years, by default the additional burden falls on the United States," Gates said.

"So I think this is a serious problem," he said.

"But I think our own financial difficulties and what we're now going to face in looking at the American defense budget brings this issue to center stage in a way that it really has not been in the past," he added.

Gates made similar comments in a speech in Brussels earlier this month.

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PM says Britain can last the distance in Libya
London (AFP) June 15, 2011
Prime Minister David Cameron insisted Wednesday that Britain could sustain its Libya operation long-term, after the navy chief warned of tough choices if the campaign lasts more than six months. Cameron said he had met First Sea Lord Admiral Mark Stanhope, the head of the Royal Navy, following his comments. Britain has been one of the chief players in the NATO military alliance implement ... read more

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