Germany: 'Libyan situation cannot be resolved militarily'

Over 400 missing since uprising against Gaddafi began, most of whom are unemployed young men who flocked to the rebel army.

Libyan Soldiers Tank 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Libyan Soldiers Tank 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BEIJING - The crisis in Libya cannot be resolved militarily, Germany's foreign minister said in Beijing on Friday, calling for efforts for a political solution for the oil-rich North African nation, as human rights organizations report over 400 people missing.
Germany broke ranks with the United States, France and Britain and joined China, Russia, India and Brazil in abstaining on a United Nations vote authorising the use of force to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya and protect civilians.
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"The Libyan situation cannot be resolved by military means," Guido Westerwelle told reporters after meeting his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, according to a pool report.
"There can only be a political resolution and we must get the political process under way. That should begin with a ceasefire that Gaddafi must heed to allow the peace process to begin," he said.
Westerwelle said at an EU foreign ministers' meeting last month that Arab League criticism of the air strikes had vindicated Germany's reluctance to back the action.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang said China was "worried by continued reports of deaths and injuries among civilians and continuing clashes," and repeated that the crisis "must be dealt with appropriately by diplomatic and political means."
Berlin had long said it did not believe a no-fly zone or air strikes would be successful in driving Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi out or protecting Libyan civilians.
Westerwelle has dismissed claims that Berlin was isolated after refusing to join its NATO allies in staging military strikes on Libya.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to opt out of any military action in Libya has drawn criticism at home, putting the government on the defensive over a policy that opinion polls suggest should be popular with voters.
More than 400 people have gone missing in east Libya since the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi began six weeks ago, many feared killed or captured by government forces, human rights officials say.
Relatives have stuck posters on the walls of hospital lobbies with photos of missing young men and telephone numbers to call with any information.
Ahmed Mahdy Hussein, unheard from since Feb. 20, was one of the names listed at Al Jala hospital in Benghazi. Saleh Ukel Hussein, born in 1976, was another, missing since the same date.
More than 120 posters adorned the walls and entrance gate of the hospital. At least four showed men in military uniform.
Human rights workers say the numbers also include four Libyan doctors and three journalists. But most are unemployed young men who flocked to the rebel volunteer army as fighters or supporters.
Others have been reported as seized by Gaddafi's security forces.
At the Libyan Red Crescent office in Benghazi, tracing coordinator Omar Budabous and his team of about 10 volunteers have been compiling lists, interviewing relatives and visiting hospitals in the city and in Ajdabiyah, a town to the south that has changed hands a few times in the conflict.
"People come here every day to make a report," he told Reuters.
He listed 353 missing from Benghazi and its outskirts, 17 from Ajdabiyah, 21 from Al-Bayda, a town to the northeast, and 22 from Tikra village.
"Most are civilians. Some went to the frontline with the rebels and there's been no news. Some have been captured," he said.
The insurrection against Gaddafi's 41-year rule started in Benghazi in mid-February with street protests that his security forces tried to repress.
It quickly developed into an armed conflict, with an untrained, undisciplined volunteer army, backed by allied air strikes, fighting Gaddafi's forces up and down the coastal highway through the northern desert.