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Libya at the crossroads

07-04-2011 09:15 BJT

The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi on June 27, on charges of crimes against humanity.

The reaction to the warrant was mixed. While Libyan officials rejected the court's authority even before the warrant was issued, it was welcomed by the opposition in Benghazi and its NATO allies.

South African President Jacob Zuma was extremely disappointed and concerned about the warrant after its release, because he felt that it undermined the African Union's (AU) work in finding a solution to the Libyan crisis.

Analysts believe that the ICC arrest warrant for Gadhafi, together with NATO's continuing air raids against Tripoli, will push the Libyan leader into a corner and leave him no choice but fight to the end.

The warrant came against the backdrop of a softening stance by the two conflicting sides. The opposition confirmed days ago that they had communication with Gadhafi through South African and French mediators in an attempt to persuade him to step down. At the same time, AU leaders said Gadhafi had agreed to stay out of peace negotiations to end Libya's political crisis.

The international community has also stepped up efforts to secure a political resolution for conflict-torn Libya. Apart from the AU, Russian envoys have mediated between the two parties and China has held talks with leaders from both the Libyan government and the opposition and called for an immediate ceasefire.

After 100 days of air strikes in Libya, the NATO alliance is showing signs of fatigue and discord with no end in sight to a conflict that the allies are determined to win.

On top of Norway's decision to withdraw most of its fighter planes from the mission in August, more rifts have emerged. Italy called for a suspension of hostilities last week, and some members of the alliance with smaller air forces are feeling the strain of the frequent sorties.

In the United States, the House of Representatives delivered a rare rebuke to the Obama administration over US involvement in the Libyan war by rejecting a resolution to authorize more missions.

A protracted conflict in Libya will only cause more civilian casualties and suffering - contrary to the UN Security Council's resolution that mandated a no-fly zone to protect civilian lives. Although an agreement is still far from being concluded, as Lynn Pascoe, the UN's under secretary-general for political affairs, said last week, "The nascent negotiation process must be given space to grow and bear fruit."

The international community must deliver a consistent, clear and coherent message of a political solution to both parties in Libya. And it has to be heard without the sound of gunfire.

Editor:Wang Chuhan |Source: China Daily

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