Libya military action: live updates

No to Western military intervention

Libya declares ceasefire after UN resolution• Resolution backed no-fly zone and air strikes • Britain set to deploy Tornado and Typhoon jets • Gaddafi denounces vote as ‘flagrant colonisation’ • Unrest continues in Bahrain and Yemen


 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Libya military action: live updates” was written by Adam Gabbatt and Mark Tran, for guardian.co.uk on Friday 18th March 2011 12.00 UTC

1.37pm: The New York Times is reporting that four of its journalists captured in Libya will be released

The journalists are Anthony Shadid, Beirut bureau chief for the NYT; two photographers, Tyler Hicks and Lindsey Addario; and reporter Stephen Farrell, who holds dual British and Irish nationality.

Gaddafi’s son Saif told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview recorded yesterday tthat Addario would be released. The NYT said that Libyan government officials told the US state department on Thursday evening that all four would be freed.

It is not clear whether the vote at the UN security council in favour of a no-fly zone over Libya, supported by the US, would have any effect on the decision to release the journalists.

1.18pm: Ian Black in Tripoli has some instant analysis of the ceasefire declaration.

The Libyan announcement of a unilateral ceasefire made by foreign minister Moussa Koussa leaves several important questions unanswered. Is it simply a ploy to divide the UN after the approval of the security council resolution? And how will a ceasefire be monitored and verified? Will the UN be allowed in? Fighting was reported from the port of Misrata shortly before his press conference in Tripoli. His offer of dialogue has already been rejected by the Benghazi-based rebels. The Gaddafi regime is pretty low on credibility so there will be plenty of scepticism about this statement. And Koussa pointedly refused to answer any questions after dropping his bombshell.

1.09pm: On a lighter note. Malta’s tourism authority is keen to correct what it says is incorrect information in parts of the British media.

Please be aware that there are NO British military bases in Malta, emails the Malta Tourism Authority. Two news sources – Sky News and Metro, have erroneously stated that British Military bases in Malta could be a possible target for Libyan counter attacks, Please be aware that this is false and that Malta has no British military bases and is not a target.

12.54pm: Libya has declared “an immediate ceasefire”, but has criticised the UN resolution, saying the use of military power would “violate” the UN charter. Here’s a summary, including details of the statement from the Libyan government:

Moussa Koussa, the Libyan foreign minister, announced that the country had decided to call a ceasefire, announcing the the “stoppage of all military operations” at a press conference in Tripoli. Koussa said the country has studied the UN resolution, and as a security council member it would accept the resolution. He said Libya encourages the “opening of all dialogue channels” with the international community.

Despite this, Koussa criticised the ruling, saying it was “unreasonable” that it allowed the use of military power. He said the use of military power would violate the UN charter and violate the sovereignty of Libya. He added that the UN resolution would “increase the suffering of the Libyan people”, while the freezing of Libya’s assets would have a “very negative impact on normal Libyans”.

On Thursday night the security council voted in favour of a no-fly zone and air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. Resolution 1973 authorises “all necessary measures” short of a ground invasion to protect civilians in Libya.

Before the ceasefire was announced, the British prime minister, David Cameron, said RAF Tornados and Typhoons would be deployed in the operation. They will be moved to air bases “in the coming hours”, Cameron told the House of Commons in London. He said: “The attorney general has been consulted and the government is satisfied that there is a clear and unequivocal legal basis for the deployment of UK forces and military assets.”

12.46pm: Koussa steps up his offensive: Libya also finds it “unreasonable” that the resolution allows the use of military power.

“There are signs that this might indeed take place,” he said.

“This goes clearly against the UN charter, and it is a violation of the national sovereignty of Libya.

“It is also a violation of article 42 of the charter.”

12.43pm: A change in tone from Koussa, as he criticises the UN resolution: “My country is very serious about continuing the development – economic, social of the Libyan nation,” Koussa says.

“We express our sadness towards what the resolution has included, and of procedures against the Libyan nation, such as the no-fly zone”, Koussa says. He said the inclusion of commercial flights will “increase the suffering of Libyan people”, and says the international community should have exempted these flights from the resolution.

“Also the total and inclusive freezing of all Libyan assets and investments will have a very negative impact on normal Libyans,” the foreign minister says.

12.40pm: Koussa continues to stress that Libya’s actions are done in accordance with the UN’s resolution.

“We agree to the article on the protection of civilians,” he says.

“Therefore, building on this, the Libyan state encourages the opening of all dialogue channels with everyone interested in the territory of Libya.”

12.38pm: “Libya has decided an immediate ceasefire and stoppage of all military operations,” the country’s foreign minister Mousa Koussa says.

12.36pm: Koussa says that Libya has studied the resolution.

“MY country will try to deal with this resolution,” Koussa says.

“Libya has now got knowledge of the resolution, and in accordance with article 25 of the UN charter and given that Libya is a member of the UN security council, Libya is committed to accept the UN security council resolution.”

12.34pm: The Libyan foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, is preparing to speak to journalists in Tripoli. We’ll follow it live.

12.18pm: More from Nick Watt in the House of Commons, where Mark Reckless, a Conservative backbencher, has “asked the awkward question of the day”.

Reckless asked the prime minister whether the operation would be better if Ark Royal, equipped with Harrier aircraft, could take part. The aircraft carrier was decommissioned as part of the strategic defence and security review last year.

Hilary Benn, the shadow leader of the commons, welcomed the decision to hold a debate on the military action on a substantive motion, followed by a vote on Monday. Benn pointed out that it is exactly eight years ago to the day since MPs voted to approve the Iraq war.

Jack Straw, the foreign secretary at the time, set a precedent by giving MPs a vote on a substantive motion. Until then debates about British military action were technically adjournment debates. This meant the only vote MPs could hold was on whether to adjourn the house.

12.12pm – Yemen: While the prime minister has been speaking about the planned military action in Libya, there have been disturbing events in Yemen, where citizens in Sana’a have been shot dead.

The Guardian’s Tom Finn is at a mosque in the city, and says he has counted 17 dead people being brought into the building wrapped in blankets. “The doctor says [there are] double that in the hospital,” Tom tweets

Al-Jazeera English is reporting that up to 30 people have been killed and 200 injured after security forces opened fire in Sana’a.

12.07pm: Our colleague, Ian Black, who is in Tripoli, says Muammar Gaddafi is far from cowed by last night’s vote at the UN, although there is a mood of nervousness in the city as well as defiance:

Gaddafi was pretty defiant from the start, he gave an interview to Portuguese TV just as the vote was about to take place and it was clear at that stage it was going to produce a no-fly zone and he was very ominous. He was talking about how the world goes crazy, we’ll go crazy too… He was menacing about and to the people of Benghazi. He said there would be no mercy, no pity. If you were a rebel in Benghazi you could be forgiven for feeling quite anxious.

12.03pm: The Guardian’s chief political correspondent, Nick Watt, has been following the questions to Cameron in the Commons following the prime minister’s statement.

Nick says there is “strong praise” for Cameron from both sides of the House, “though some Labour MPs are voicing doubts”.

James Arbuthnot, the Tory chairman of the commons defence select committee, said the prime minister has shown a “breathtaking degree of courage and leadership”. Mike Gapes, the former Labour chairman of the commons foreign affairs select committee, congratulated Cameron, British diplomats at the UN and the French government.

But Jeremy Corbyn, the veteran left winger, asked why action was being taken to protect human rights in Libya while no action was being taken in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Natascha Engel, a Labour MP, questioned whether the air strikes would compound a difficult situation. David Winnick, a veteran Labour MP, warned that Britain could be dragged into a third war in ten years.

Nicolas Sarkozy has invited members of the Arab League to a meeting in Paris on Saturday. David Cameron will attend.

Nick says that David Cameron has told MPs that the government will publish a summary of the legal advice by Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, which has given formal approval for British participation in Libya.

“This will be published before a commons debate on Monday when MPs will vote on the military action,” Nick says. “In another departure with Tony Blair’s approach over the Iraq war in 2003, the prime minister announced that the international development secretary Andrew Mitchell is to chair a cross-Whitehall group to coordinate humanitarian efforts in Libya.”

12 noon: Welcome to the Guardian’s continuing coverage of the crisis in Libya as the UN backs military action and the British government commits RAF jets to the operation. You can find our earlier coverage here

Here are the main points of the story so far:

British and French military aircraft are preparing to protect the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi after the UN security council voted in favour of a no-fly zone and air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. Resolution 1973 authorises “all necessary measures” short of a ground invasion to protect civilians in Libya.

The British prime minister, David Cameron, said RAF Tornados and Typhoons would be deployed in the operation. They will be moved to air bases “in the coming hours”, Cameron told the House of Commons in London. He said: “The attorney general has been consulted and the government is satisfied that there is a clear and unequivocal legal basis for the deployment of UK forces and military assets.”

Gaddafi has warned that any foreign attack on Libya would endanger air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean area.In a defiant and menacing radio address on Thursday night, the Libyan leader sald. “No more fear, no more hesitation, the moment of truth has come. There will be no mercy. Our troops will be coming to Benghazi tonight.”

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