Cameron: Libya UN resolution makes mission 'difficult'

The UK prime minister has said the terms of the UN resolution on Libya are a "restriction" on the coalition powers who have been trying to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone.

David Cameron said the UK was not occupying or invading but said these restrictions imposed by the UN made the mission in Libya more difficult.

But he stressed the restrictions were the "right" ones.

It comes amid reports of fresh fighting between pro-Gaddafi forces and rebels.

Opponents of Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi say at least six people were killed and 47 wounded when his forces shelled the western town of Misrata on Sunday morning. Pro-government fighters are also said to have shelled Ajdabiya in the east.

Speaking to Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News, Mr Cameron said: "We're not occupying, we're not invading, that's not what we're about. And that is obviously a restriction on us, but I think it is the right restriction.

"It's because we've said we're not going to invade, we're not going to occupy, this is more difficult in many ways, because we can't fully determine the outcome with what we have available.

"But we're very clear we must stick to the terms of the UN Security Council resolution - and we must keep the support of the Arab world."

Mr Cameron went on to say enforcing the resolution meant bombing missions "to actually take out Gaddafi's tanks and artillery and command and control that are unleashing this hell on people in Misrata in Brega, and other towns up and down the Libyan coast".

Protecting civilians

He said it should also mean "things like helping, as we are, the interim transitional national council, assisting the rebels with non-lethal equipment, as we have done".

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What is simply required is continuing the pressure of Gaddafi in a limited way while pressing for some sort of diplomatic settlement that gives him a way out”

Shashank Joshi Royal United Services Institute

"We've given them body armour, we've given them communications equipment. But of course, clearly we should be doing things to help the protection of civilians," he said.

The UN resolution authorises "all necessary measures" to protect civilians under threat of attack - short of an occupying force. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's removal is not a specified military objective of the action.

Shashank Joshi, a defence analyst with the Royal United Services Institute think tank, told the BBC there was only a "limited amount" Nato could achieve under the resolution.

But he said ground forces would be a "terrible idea" and there was "no prospect" of the UN supporting such action.

He added: "What is simply required is continuing the pressure of Gaddafi in a limited way while pressing for some sort of diplomatic settlement that gives him a way out.

"We have partly backed him into a corner by pressing for regime change and I think that's been a serious error."

On Saturday, the former head of the UK armed forces Lord Dannatt said the allies should seek United Nations approval to arm and train Libyan rebels.

Lord Dannatt told the BBC: "We want to act within the law, within international agreement and therefore we should be arguing the case to not accept a stalemate, not to put our own boots on the ground, but to properly arm those boots that are on the ground.

"They are Libyan boots. Let the Libyan people have the wherewithal to choose a new government for themselves."

Meanwhile, former UK government minister Lord Trefgarne has told the BBC the rebels have been able to raise funds through the sale of "at least one significant shipment" of oil through Qatar under a deal authorised by the UN.

Renewed fighting

There were fierce battles on the road between Ajdabiya and the strategic oil town of Brega, which has changed hands several times in recent weeks, on Saturday.

Elsewhere renewed fighting was also reported in Misrata, the embattled rebel holdout in the west of Libya.

Concern over the fate of civilians in the city has been growing in recent days, as evidence has emerged that pro-Gaddafi forces have been shelling and launching rocket attacks.

Human Rights Watch has alleged that the Libyan forces are using cluster bombs in Misrata. Libya's government has denied that suggestion.

Responding to the denial, Peter Bouckaert from Human Rights Watch told BBC News "extensive physical evidence" of the use of cluster munitions in Misrata had been found.

"We have no doubt that the Libyan army has used cluster bombs in Misrata, and continue to do so, despite their denials," he said.

[Source: BBC, London, 17Apr11]

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