Libya: Qaddafi blinks in face of air-strikes

The Libyan government announced an immediate ceasefire in its offensive against rebels in the country’s east March 18, as a coalition of Western and Arab nations prepared for air-strikes following the previous day’s UN Security Council resolution. Rebels said government forces had been bombarding Misrata, the last rebel-held city in the west—but the government denied that this had continued after the ceasefire. Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told Reuters: “Libya has already implemented the ceasefire. We have not carried out any military operations today on Misrata or anywhere else in the country.” He added that Tripoli wanted the Turkish and Maltese authorities to “supervise and help implement the ceasefire.”

The ceasefire announcement came only hours after Moammar Qaddafi had insisted that the Security Council had “no mandate” for the resolution authorizing military force, “which we absolutely do not recognize.” Qaddafi told Portuguese television: “This is not a war between two countries that permits the council to intervene,” he said in an interview on Portuguese television. The UN Charter “does not permit interference in domestic affairs.”

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance is “completing its planning in order to be ready to take appropriate action in support of the UN resolution as part of the broad international effort.” (BBC News, Reuters, March 18)

Despite his ceasefire, Qaddafi blasted the UN resolution in comments to AlJazeera: “This is blatant colonialism. It does not have any justification. This will have serious consequences on the Mediterranean and on Europe… In 2011 they are colonizing us, massacring us, and imposing one no-fly zone after the other and one military attack after an other. What is this racism? What is this hatred?” (Reuters, March 19)

See our last posts on the Libyan crisis and the regional revolutions.

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