15 Apr 2011

Does Nato want regime change in Libya?

With leaders of the UK, the US and France calling on Colonel Gaddafi to step down, a British Conservative MP wants a recall of parliament amid fears that Nato is set on regime change in Libya.

One day after Nato planes launched air strikes on Tripoli, a Conservative MP has requested the recall of Parliament amid fears that the allied mission in Libya has become focused on regime change, which is illegal under international law.

John Baron, who was the only Tory MP to vote against military action in Libya, believes that while the original emphasis of the Libyan mission was the protection of civilians and the provision of humanitarian aid, it is now the removal of Colonel Gaddafi.

Mr Baron’s decision to write to the Commons Speaker requesting a recall was prompted in part by an article penned jointly by Prime Minister Cameron, President Obama and President Sarkozy, which appeared in today’s Times.

In the piece, which is also published in the Washington Post and Le Figaro, the leaders of the UK, the US and France state: “Our duty and our mandate under UN Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Qaddafi (sic) by force.

The mission in Libya has fundamentally changed into one of regime change. John Baron, Conservative MP for Billericay

“But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi (sic) in place.”

The Conservative MP for Billericay told Channel 4 News: “The article confirms that the mission has fundamentally changed into one of regime change, which is illegal under international law.

“Had Parliament known this at the time, the original debate might have taken a different course. I believe I’m not the only one who has questions to ask the Government.”

The original UN Resolution 1973 demands an immediate ceasefire between pro-government forces and rebels in Libya. It authorises the international community to establish a no-fly zone over the country and to use all means necessary short of foreign occupation to protect civilians.

For in-depth analysis of Libya in turmoil as coalition forces support rebels fighting for an end to Colonel Gaddafi's 41-year rule, go to Libya war: strike against Gaddafi.

Former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis is also in favour of a recall of Parliament. He told BBC Radio: “I think Cameron has done the right thing at every step so far. To go to the next phase, he has to get parliamentary authority.”

But Lord (Mark) Malloch-Brown, interviewed for Channel 4 News, said he believed the text of today’s newspaper article made it clear that military activity was limited to the protection of civilians.

“They’re right to say their continued presence is going to contribute to the weakening of the regime, but they are careful not to say that they’re going to go over the line of the resolution and use military means to displace him,” the former UN Deputy Secretary General and Foreign Office minister told Alex Thomson.

Cameron, Obama and Sarkozy are careful not to say they’re going to use military means to displace Gaddafi. Lord Malloch-Brown, former Foreign Office minister

Lord Malloch-Brown disagreed that the contents of the Obama-Cameron-Sarkozy letter merited a recall of parliament, but he described the current military operation as “a little bit up a creek without a paddle” because it was failing on a humanitarian level and had no exit strategy.

The House of Commons is currently in Easter recess. MPs are not due to return until 26 April. The Commons debated military action on 21 March, four days after UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was passed.

Parliament has been recalled in recent years to debate the 1982 Argentine invasion of the Falklands, the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and claims in 2002 that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.