NATO to intervene in Libya?
The Libyan UN Mission—breaking with the regime of Moammar Qaddafi—requested an emergency meeting of the Security Council about the situation in Libya Feb. 21, urging the world body to install a no-fly zone over the country to prevent the regime from using warplanes and helicopters to bomb its own population. Deputy Permanent Representative Ibrahim Dabbashi said Libyans had to be protected from "genocide." After meeting once the following day, the Council took no action but said it would meet again soon. (Afrol News, Radio Australia, Feb. 22)
Former British foreign secretary Lord Owen called on NATO to enforce a no-fly zone: "The UN Security Council should meet in emergency session and declare the situation in Libya as a threat to peace under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter and declare a no-flight zone for the Libyan air force and ask the regional power, NATO, to enforce it." (UKPA, Feb. 22)
Qaddafi strikes back —with incoherence
Qaddafi on Feb. 21 broke his silence to appear on Libyan national TV to issue a terse statement denying international media reports that he had fled to Caracas: "I want to clarify for them that I am in Tripoli not in Venezuela. Do not believe these channels—they are dogs. Goodbye."
The newly established General Committee for Defense also issued a statement calling the protesters "terrorist gangs made up mostly of misguided youths" who had been exploited and fed "hallucinogenic pills" by foreign agents.
The following day, Qaddafi appeared again on TV to deliver a rambling hour-long speech in which he denied that there had been any massacres—and yet pledged to cling to power regardless of the cost in human lives. "I will not leave. I'll die here a martyr," he said, shaking his fist. He called the protesters "drugged youths," "greasy rats and cats" and "paid mercenaries." He called upon Libyans to "capture the rats," and threatened to "cleanse Libya house by house." He warned: "Any use of force against the state will be punished by death."
He favorably invoked the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and Boris Yeltsin's 1993 shelling of the Duma building: "The Russian president brought tanks and bombed the Duma with the MPs inside until they snuffed the rats out, and the West did not object but told him 'you are acting in accordance with the law.' Students in Beijing protested for days near a Coca Cola sign... Then the tanks came and crushed them." In nearly the same breath, he dismissed reports of massacres as "baseless lies" by foreign media. (BBC News, NY Daily News, Feb. 22)