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France and allies consider no-fly zone around Libya

media Alain Juppé with much-criticised Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

France hopes that Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi will soon quit power, Defence Minister Alain Juppé said Thursday. He said that the imposition of a no-fly zone around the crisis-hit country is being discussed but added that direct military intervention is not on the cards at the moment.

“I hope with all my heart that Kadhafi is experiencing his last moments as head of state,” Juppé said, declaring that a leader firing on his own people is “obviously unacceptable”.

Juppé ruled out military intervention at the moment but he seemed to be leaving all options open.

“People sometimes talk of non-interference in the affairs of countries around the world,” he said. “But there is another duty which has been very clearly adopted by the United Nations, that is the responsibility to protect.

“When a government is unable to protect its own population, when it attacks it, then it is the duty of the international community to intervene.”

Economic and political sanctions are being discussed, Juppé said, but he singled out action on airspace as most worthy of consideration.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday that France and Italy would be best placed to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya.

Juppé brushed off recent criticism that French diplomacy has been wrong-footed by this year’s revolts against north African regimes with which Paris had friendly relations.

“There have been errors but they have been collective errors,” he said.

Neither the US nor other European countries had taken “particularly far-sighted anticipatory positions” in relation to Tunisia, Egypt or Libya, he added, pointing out that the European Union was negotiating an economic agreement with Libya when the revolt erupted.

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