Libya must declare ceasefire: UN chief

Ban Ki-moon warns Libya risks further UN action if he doesn`t halt violence.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2011, 15:56 PM IST

New York: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has ignored UN demands to declare a ceasefire and risks further Security Council action if he doesn`t halt the violence.

Ban told the 15-member council that representatives of Gaddafi`s government and the Libyan opposition will be among those attending an African Union meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Friday, on Libya.

The UN chief said his special envoy to Libya, former Jordanian foreign minister Abdelilah Al-Khatib, as well as representatives of relevant countries and regional organisations will also attend in hopes of reaching a cease-fire and political solution in the North African country.

Ban was reporting to the council as required one week after it authorised establishment of a no-fly zone and "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya. That resolution, and another one passed last month, both call on Gaddafi`s government to impose a ceasefire.

Ban told the 15-member council charged with international peace and security that there is no evidence that Libyan officials have instituted a ceasefire as they claim.

"To the contrary, fierce battles continue in or around the cities of Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zitan, among others," Ban said in his first report since the council passed two resolutions aimed at protecting civilians in Libya in the wake of an anti-government uprising.

Ban said Al-Khatib has warned Gaddafi government officials that the council is prepared to take additional measures if a ceasefire does not take effect.

"The special envoy emphasised that it was in Libya`s best interest to cease hostilities and change the dynamics of the crisis," he said.

Taking questions from reporters after the meeting, Ban insisted that the resolutions intend to protect Libya`s civilian population, not push Gaddafi from power.

"The primary aim is to provide protection for civilians, to save lives," Ban said. "It`s not aiming to change any regime."

NATO has notified the UN of its decision to start an alliance operation in support of an arms embargo against Libya under the two resolutions, he said. He named 11 countries that have notified the world body that they are participating in action to uphold the resolutions: Britain, France, the United States, Denmark, Canada, Italy, Qatar, Belgium, Norway, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

Ban said he was vetting candidates for a panel of experts to assist the Security Council committee charged with monitoring the sanctions against Libya, including an embargo on all arms, and an asset freeze and travel ban on Gaddafi and some of his family members and associates. UN diplomats speaking on background said the committee is expected to meet in the coming days, probably next week.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters that the no-fly operation`s first week had been successful because it had stopped major bloodshed in the rebels` eastern stronghold of Benghazi.

Araud said some council members during the meeting`s closed portion had raised concerns about reports of civilian casualties since the military operation began, but he said the gathering was "normal and not contentious." He said such reports coming from the Gaddafi government had not been confirmed.

"All of us are looking for a political solution that will allow the Libyan people to decide their fate," he said of the council.

In his report to the council, Ban also expressed concerns about Libya`s precarious humanitarian situation, protection of civilians, and human rights abuses.

The UN chief said that during his March 13 visit to Tripoli, Al-Khatib told the Libyan foreign minister and other senior officials that "attacks on civilians must stop, those responsible for crimes against their people will be accountable, safe humanitarian access must be guaranteed, resolutions 1970 and 1973 must be implemented in full."

UN humanitarian officials have had only limited access to assess the situation inside the country, Ban said, adding that there are increasing worries about the ability of get basic commodities and services in areas under siege. He said the World Food Program has received reports that food prices in Libya are rising sharply, with the price of flour doubling in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, more than 335,000 people have left Libya since the crisis began, and about 9,000 of them remain stranded along the country`s border with Tunisia, he said.

Bureau Report