European Union leaders have agreed to leave all options open to remove Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and voiced support for the country's opposition, but stopped short of offering rebel forces the diplomatic recognition given by France.
AP - The European Union said Friday it would continue to consider military action in Libya, but only if it were supported by the United Nations and the Arab League - which some diplomats consider unlikely.
The statement came at the end of an emergency meeting on Libya attended by all 27 EU heads of government.
Delegates at Friday’s summit also politically supported Libya’s opposition council, but stopped short of bestowing on it the diplomatic recognition given by France on Thursday. Some EU leaders were miffed that President Nicolas Sarkozy had taken that action one day before the meeting, which was meant to decide on a common strategy.
Beyond embracing Libya’s opposition council as one viable partner, it was unclear at the end of the meeting what precisely would change about the EU’s strategy toward the conflict. All 27 EU heads of state called unequivocally for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to go, but most had already done that.
During Friday’s talks, France and Britain pushed to maintain the military option because of continued fighting in Libya and the threat of more violence by the forces of Gadhafi, who has used at least some European-made weapons to attack his own people.
Sarkozy said the EU “will examine all necessary options” to protect Libya’s civilian population. To coordinate action with the regional forces, the EU will meet in a summit “soon” with the Arab League and the African Union, he said.
With their backing, and that of the U.N. Security Council, the EU leaders said they want to go as far as needed to remove Gadhafi from power.
“Out objective is the safety of the people, and the safety of the people has to be ensured by all necessary means,” EU President Herman van Rompuy said.
Many EU nations wanted to take a more cautious route and “there was an intense debate” at the emergency summit before all agreed to keep military action possible, even with an array of provisos attached.
But all 27 leaders called for Gadhafi to go and promised to do their utmost to lock him out of the diplomatic arena while piling on more sanctions if he stays.
“We are witnessing what can only be called barbaric acts, with Gadhafi brutally repressing a popular uprising led by his own people and flagrantly ignoring the will of the international community,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron. “This is a regime which for years supported terrorism around the world and was implicated in the biggest mass murder ever on British soil, the Lockerbie bombing.”
Cameron said the EU leaders strengthened financial sanctions and were clear in saying that Gadhafi must go.”
“If we don’t sort out the current problems, the risk is again a failed pariah state festering on Europe’s southern border threatening our security, pushing people across the Mediterranean and creating a more dangerous and uncertain world for Britain and for all our allies,” he said.
But, asked whether the EU had done enough on Friday, Cameron sounded equivocal.
“I think it is progress, but sometimes progress can take some time when you’re having 27 conversations around the table,” he said.