Libya Update: US General Warns Difficulties In Enforcing No-Fly Zone – 2 March2011

Posted on March 2, 2011


Even with international backing and legitimacy, to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya would be difficult.

At a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill, CENTCOM head General James Mattis told senators that enforcing a no-fly zone would require removing Libya’s air defence systems first.

“You would have to remove air defence capability in order to establish a no-fly zone, so no illusions here,” he said. “It would be a military operation – it wouldn’t be just telling people not to fly airplanes.”

Military officials say maintaining an effective no-fly zone could involve hundreds of aircraft, patrolling around the clock.

Questioned about General Mattis’s comments on Capitol Hill this morning, US defence secretary Robert Gates said: “All of the options beyond the humanitarian assistance and evacuations are complex.

“There is no unanimity within NATO for the use of armed force,” Mr Gates added in a joint press conference with the US military’s top officer, Admiral Mike Mullen.

“The kinds of options that have been talked about in the press and elsewhere also have their own consequences and second and third order effects, so they need to be considered very carefully,” he added.

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British foreign secretary William Hague claimed the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya would not necessarily require UN approval, directly contradicting an earlier statement made by the French government.

Mr Hague said the action would “ideally” be mandated by a UN Security Council resolution, but added the United Nations had been bypassed before.

“There have been occasions in the past when such a no-fly zone has had clear, legal, international justification even without a Security Council resolution,” he told the BBC. “It depends on the situation on the ground.”

Mr Hague conceded the UK government would have to take “full legal advice” before acting with foreign allies without UN backing, adding: “You would certainly need a very strong degree of international support.”

Mr Hague’s comments came hours after new French foreign minister Alain Juppe told the French parliament there would be no no-fly zone without a UN resolution. [abc.net.au]

And of course Russia has said that it will veto any security council resolution for such action.