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France

Parliament votes to extend Libyan military action

Video by Lorna SHADDICK

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-07-13

The French parliament has voted to pursue France’s participation in NATO operations in Libya, four months after the first airstrikes against forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

The French Parliament voted Tuesday afternoon to authorise a continuation of France’s participation in NATO operations in Libya, four months after the first airstrikes were ordered.

The parliamentary debate is required by a 2008 reform that stipulates that any military operation ordered by the French presidency must be evaluated and voted on by Parliament four months later.

The vote in the National Assembly, the Parliament’s lower house, was 482 to 27, with several Communist and Green Party lawmakers voting against a continuation of France’s participation.

The Senate vote was 311 in favour and 24 against.

Some of the debate in both chambers revolved around the cost of the operation, especially in the wake of France’s decision to send combat helicopters in late May and weapons to Libyan rebels in early June.

“People were asking for assurances that it wasn’t going to go over budget,” FRANCE 24’s Tony Todd reported from the National Assembly.

But the decision to authorise the continuation of French military participation in Libya was backed on both sides of the political aisle, with Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP party and opposition Socialists widely viewing the effort against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces as legitimate.

French Prime Minister François Fillon opened the debate in the National Assembly by reminding deputies that Gaddafi had promised “rivers of blood” in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. He also noted that “since the start of the mission on March 19, the military situation has been constantly improving”.

Socialist lawmakers nevertheless were critical of certain aspects of the operation, such as the coordination with NATO allies, and members of both parties called for clarification as to a foreseeable exit strategy for the operation in Libya.

Bernand Cazaneuve, a Socialist lawmaker in the National Assembly who voted for France to continue its role in the operation, told FRANCE 24 while exiting the chamber: “It’s vitally important that everything France does is in strict accordance with the UN resolution. France needs to broaden its diplomatic effort to include a consensus with the Arab League and the African Union. Only then can we put the right kind of pressure on Gaddafi to leave or negotiate his way out quickly.”

Hours after the vote, Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said Tripoli regretted France’s decision to prolong the country's military intervention.

Push for negotiations

In March, President Nicolas Sarkozy took a gamble by taking a personal role in supporting Libya's rebels, but is now anxious to avoid costly military operations running into the start of campaigning for the 2012 presidential election.

On Sunday, Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said rebels should not wait for Gaddafi’s defeat and said France’s objective was that he must leave power “eventually”.

“We have ... asked them to speak to each other,” Longuet told BFM TV on Sunday. “We have been able to stem the tide against the rebels and now we want them to speak to each other….And we will stop the bombing when the Libyans agree to start speaking with each other and when the soldiers, on both sides, are back in their barracks.”

The cost of intervention has added to French frustrations. Sitting at 160 million euros, the military mission is costing France a million euros a day.
 

Date created : 2011-07-12

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