International powers should consider arming Libyan rebels and need to take swift action to prevent Muammar Gaddafi’s forces from crushing a rebellion, says Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Hague said it would be a nightmare for Libya’s people if Gaddafi remained in power and that “a point of decision” was looming for meaningful international intervention.
The U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo and other sanctions on Libya on February 26, which would have to be lifted before weapons could be funnelled to anti-Gaddafi forces.
Britain and France have been pushing for the imposition of a no-fly zone to shield Libyans from Gaddafi’s air power and British officials stressed that remained their priority.
“If Gaddafi went on to be able to dominate much of the country, well this would be a long nightmare for the Libyan people and this would be a pariah state for some time to come,” Hague told BBC Radio 4.
Hague will attend a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in Paris on Monday to examine options for Libya after rebel efforts to end Gaddafi’s four-decade rule appeared to falter.
Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign and defence secretary from Hague’s Conservative party, wrote in The Times newspaper on Monday that it was time for the West to arm the Libyan rebels.
Hague said that lifting an international arms embargo on Libya could help Gaddafi as well as the rebels, but added that Rifkind made a good case that merited consideration.
“This is the kind of subject which has to be discussed with our international partners and those discussions are now taking place,” Hague said.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said Britain was not pushing for an end to the arms embargo.
“The focus of our discussions at an international level have been very much around the options you know about, which have been further measures to isolate the regime….and discussions on the option of a no fly zone,” the spokesman said.
“As the Foreign Secretary was saying, there is an arms embargo in place, lifting that would have repercussions on both sides and although we would not rule anything out, that isn’t something we are actively pursuing at the present time.”