Fri, May 13, 2011 - Page 9 News List

Western support may have to be covert in Libya

By Louis Charbonneau  /  Reuters, UNITED NATIONS

But nearly two months after NATO-led airstrikes on Qaddafi’s forces began, Western military might has failed to tip the balance in favor of the rag-tag rebel troops. The rebels are entrenched in the east of the country, while Qaddafi controls the west, leading to a de facto partition of Libya.

“We were hoping this thing would be over in two weeks,” a Security Council diplomat said about the March 17 vote that authorized the use of “all necessary measures” — diplomatic code for military force — to protect civilians in Libya.

“The sanctions were not intended for a divided Libya,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Another diplomat said that the Western powers had been convinced the Libya conflict could resolve itself quickly as happened in Egypt and Tunisia, where the leaders of both countries stepped down in the face of massive pressure from protesters.

Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, there was no swift ouster of Qaddafi. The Libyan conflict is now a full-blown civil war.

The US, Britain, France and their allies are now stuck with an arms embargo and sanctions against Libya’s National Oil Corp that are making it difficult for the rebels to get weapons and funds. Traders say that market participants are reluctant to touch any Libyan oil these days.

A member of the Libyan rebels’ oil and gas support group said that they are receiving cash for oil shipped from the rebel-held east via a Qatari trust fund.

However, the cash-strapped rebels continue to seek sustainable funding mechanisms given that there is little hope of the Security Council adjusting its sanctions regime anytime soon.

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