French parliament debates Libyan military mission

Three days after the start of the international military mission over Libya, the French parliament is debating the commitment of French forces abroad as mandated by French law.


As French military planes enforce a UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya, France’s parliament on Tuesday debates the country’s involvement in the military intervention in the North African nation. But with France’s main opposition parties largely backing French military involvement in an international mission over Libya, the debate is not expected to spark much controversy.

As the first and only country in the world to recognize the Libyan opposition’s National Transition Council, France took a leading role in pushing for a no-fly zone to contain Muammar Gaddafi’s air power and stop the Libyan leader from targeting civilians.

The resulting UN resolution 1973, which was passed last week, gives the international community wide scope to use "all necessary means" to protect civilians.

Under French law, the executive branch must inform parliament about the government’s move to commit French troops abroad.

Parliamentary approval however is not mandated under French law and Tuesday’s sessions in the upper and lower houses are not expected to spark much controversy.

French political opinion has been largely behind President Nicolas Sarkozy’s deployment of forces to aid the international mission in Libya.

Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin – a Sarkozy rival who broke ranks with the ruling UMP party to form his own party, Republique Solidaire, last year – has welcomed France’s involvement in Libya. In an interview published on Sunday in the weekly newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche, Villepin supported the French military initiative against Gaddafi.

France’s main opposition Socialist Party has also supported UN Resolution 1973.

At the extreme ends of the political spectrum though, hardline left and right parties have voiced opposition to the intervention. “This is an act of war,” said Marine Le Pen, the new leader of the far right Front National party. “It will not solve the problem, which is one of long-term civil war”.

Sarkozy’s lead role in calling for an international containment of Gaddafi contrasts sharply with his government’s response to the popular uprising in Tunisia, a former French colony whose success in ousting longstanding former dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali is credited with sparking a similar movement in Egypt and across large swathes of the Arab world.

The French failure to respond to Tunisia, coupled with multiple gaffes by former French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, resulted in the seasoned French politician’s resignation from the post. Her successor, current French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has led Sarkozy’s move for a UN resolution on Libya and represented France during last Thursday’s Security Council session when resolution 1973 was passed.


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