G-8 ministers to seek harmony on Libya at Monday meet

G-8 ministers to seek harmony on Libya at Monday meet

Paris: G-8 powers will seek a united front on the conflict in Libya amid calls to enforce a no-fly zone there, at a meeting of the eight major powers’ foreign ministers in Paris on Monday and Tuesday.

Amid divisions over calls for foreign military intervention, diplomats said the group of eight will take stock of efforts by host France and Britain for a UN Security Council resolution on a no-fly zone, backed by the Arab League.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will join counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. All the Council’s permanent members except China will be represented.

Britain and France have a draft resolution in hand for the Security Council to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya which received backing on Saturday from the 22-nation Arab League, considered crucial for dealing with the region.

Russia and China have appeared reluctant to back the no-fly zone while the United States, Germany and Italy have taken a cautious line on intervention, which Washington and the European Union say can only happen with a UN mandate.

But Lavrov said last week that Russia would give a fair hearing to proposals for a no-fly zone, saying Moscow’s approval depended on how the system would work and on the humanitarian situation.

Wary of the anti-American fury the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan caused among Arabs, US President Barack Obama said Friday he was gauging regional support for a no-fly zone.

US defense secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday that it remained unclear if it would be a “wise" move.

Following an uprising against Kadhafi last month, forces loyal to him have launched a fierce bombardment of rebels, dozens of whom were pulling out of the eastern town of Brega on Sunday after heavy shelling.

Crisis meetings in Brussels have exposed an EU rift over how to force the Libyan leader out, with France calling for targeted airstrikes if Kadhafi bombs his people.

At a summit on Friday, European leaders agreed Kadhafi must go, but their closing statement made no mention of a no-fly zone and Sarkozy’s proposals for targeted action against the Libyan strongman went unheeded.

They agreed to talk to Kadhafi’s opponents and protect Libyan civilians “by all necessary means" but stopped short of an outright military threat.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged partners to formally recognize Libya’s opposition, as the Arab League has done, while working on contingency planning for military action.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one of Kadhafi’s closest world partners whose country has strong historical and economic ties with Tripoli, predicted Kadhafi would never give in for fear of facing international justice.

In the no-fly zone, US and NATO warplanes would ground Kadhafi’s air power in order to protect civilians and the opposition. Experts say hundreds of planes would be needed to police the skies over Libya’s vast territory.

Diplomats who asked not to be named told AFP the G-8 ministers would also discuss Friday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan -- represented by its new foreign minister Takeaki Matsumoto.

They will also look at other crises in countries such as Somalia, Ivory Coast and Sudan, as well as the Middle East and global drug-trafficking.

Sarkozy will meet the ministers on Monday before a working dinner hosted by his foreign minister Alain Juppe ahead of their full meeting and news conferences on Tuesday.