Arabs demand Libya halt violence, eye no-fly zone

Arab League Sec.-Gen. Moussa: "We have to save the Libyan people"; says no-fly zone over country may be enforced by African Union.

Amir Moussa 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Amir Moussa 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
CAIRO - The Arab League called on Muammar Gaddafi's government to halt attacks against Libyans on Wednesday and said it would consider imposing a "no-fly" zone over the country which has been suspended from the organization.
An Arab League ministers' meeting in Cairo rejected any direct outside military intervention in Libya, where Gaddafi is trying to put down a revolt threatening his four decades in power. They reiterated their condemnation of his use of force.
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"We have to save the Libyan people and that is why we are trying to call on Libya and the Libyan authorities to cease those attacks against the Libyan population," Secretary-General Amir Moussa told reporters during a closing news conference.
"The Arab League will not stand with its hands tied while the blood of the brotherly Libyan people is spilt," Moussa said.
Steps could include a "no fly" zone, enforced in cooperation with the African Union, he said, reading from the text of a resolution issued at the end of the meeting.
Western states appear hesitant about the idea of staging any form of military intervention in Libya. The United States is sending warships towards the country, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that imposing a "no-fly" zone would mean first attacking Libya and destroying its air defenses.
"Let's just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses ... and then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down," Gates told a congressional hearing. Gates said a no-fly zone for Libya "also requires more airplanes than you can find on a single aircraft carrier, so it is a big operation in a big country."
"I think we are a long way from making that decision," Clinton told a Senate hearing, adding that it was possible that US military assets could be used to "support getting equipment and supplies to areas that have need of them and where we are welcome."
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The international community should be ready to implement a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gaddafi's attacks on his own civilians, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said earlier Wednesday.
The Cairo-based Arab League has suspended Libya's participation in condemnation of the crackdown by Gaddafi forces against protests that have grown into a rebellion against his rule and restricted his government to the west of the country.
The Arab resolution called on the Libyan government to respond to the "legitimate demands of the Libyan people" and to stop bloodshed. The Libyan authorities must lift restrictions on media and mobile networks and allow the delivery of aid.
The Arab League demanded "the preservation of the unity of Libyan lands and civil peace" -- similar to the language it used in the run-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Their resolution confirmed Libya's suspension from the organization until it responded to demands such as allowing freedom of expression.
"The situation in Libya is sorrowful and it is not correct that we accept it or live with it," said Moussa, speaking at the opening session.
"The Arab people will stand against tyranny because it is painful, rejected and insulting," Moussa said. "It is the first meeting of a new era, in the era of revolution," he added.