Arab League calls for Libyan no-fly zone

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Arab League joined calls to impose a no-fly zone over Libya after a meeting of the 22-nation group in Cairo on Saturday.

The proposal was settled upon during a six-hour-long emergency meeting at the Arab League's headquarters, with only Algeria and Syria in opposition. According to League officials, the group had been in contact with rebels engaged in fighting prior to the meeting.

According to Amr Moussa, the organization's secretary general, it had "officially requested the United Nations Security Council to impose a no-fly zone against any military action against the Libyan people." Moussa went on to say that he was "talking about a humanitarian action ... supporting the Libyan people in their fight for freedom against a regime that is more and more disdainful."

According to onlookers, some members of the League, including Saudi Arabia and Algeria, are concerned about establishing a no-fly zone because they have experienced protests as well, and they worry that uprisings similar to the Libyan one could occur. Additionally, even though the League voted in favor of a no-fly zone, other analysts say internal dissent could lead to them going no further than stating their support.

During the meeting, Libyan protesters gathered outside the headquarters building in support of a no-fly zone. One protester, originally from the Libyan city of Benghazi, said that "[w]e want the Arab League to show the same resolve on this situation as the rest of the world...if they don't, it will be embarrassing for them in front of their own peoples and everyone else."

NATO considers the support of regional powers essential if a no-fly zone is to be established, as some members believe that it could be seen as outside interference by Western powers. According to Britain's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, "You need support within the region from the Arab world" for a no-fly zone and "[the UK] would like Arab nations to participate in it militarily."