Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Prague to back NATO joining military operation in Libya, foreign minister says

21 March 2011

Prague, March 20 (CTK) - The Czech Republic will support NATO's joining the military operation in Libya, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Czech Television yesterday, adding that NATO should supervise the operation.

The Czech Republic will probably not join the operation for now, Schwarzenberg (TOP 09) said but he did not rule out possible deployment of the Czech chemical warfare unit.

Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra (Civic Democrats, ODS) said the Czechs could take part in possible humanitarian aid.

"I'd like the operation to take place in the framework and also under supervision of NATO," said Schwarzenberg.

He said "individual member countries, though big ones, should not act entirely independently from the allies."

The attacks on Libya that started on Saturday involve mainly the British, French and U.S. air forces.

Schwarzenberg said he does not expect NATO to ask the Czech Republic to join the military operation in Libya. "We don't have any naval force, and our aircraft are not suitable for taking part in such operations," Schwarzenberg said.

He admitted that Prague may provide the chemical warfare unit to NATO, if Muammar Gaddafi's regime used such weapons and if the allies asked the Czechs for assistance. "I don't expect this to happen for the moment," he added.

Vondra told journalists that the unit would be ready for deployment in a few days, if NATO asked for it. Nevertheless, the sending in of chemical experts must be required by the situation, he added.

"No one has asked us for it, nor does the situation require it, fortunately. Let's hope it will not require it at all," Vondra said.

Libya allegedly disposed of most of its chemical ammunition in 2004. Experts say, nevertheless, that Libya still has some 9.5 tonnes of lethal mustard gas in a secret depository.

In the past, the Czech military's chemical and biological warfare unit operated in Iraq and Afghanistan, among others.

Vondra repeated that the Czechs will not join the attacks on Libya. He said Prague could take part in the subsequent humanitarian aid to Libya.

As far as the no-fly zone is concerned, it is a decision wrung out by the internal policy of some western European countries, he said.

"The question is whether the no-fly zone will really solve something," Vondra added.

Czech senior opposition Social Democrat (CSSD) chairman Bohuslav Sobotka said the intervention in Libya should not go beyond the U.N.S.C. mandate. Escalating a military conflict is not the optimal way to solve the situation in the country, he said.

The CSSD has not received enough information about the developments in Libya from the Czech government, and it will ask for more of it, Sobotka said.

NATO countries' ambassadors will discuss NATO's participation in the Libyan operation yesterday. According to preliminary information, NATO will probably join the operation.

Czech ambassador to NATO Martin Povejsil said NATO may assist in securing the no-fly zone over Libya and in the arms embargo enforcement.

The Czech Republic would join in indirectly through joint NATO means such as the monitoring aircraft AWACS, Povejsil said.

Schwarzenberg repeated that the military operation in Libya poses a number of risks and that the situation in the country is very confused. He said he hopes that the countries that want to take action in Libya have more information than the Czech Republic.

"I lack the information, which the British PM indicated these politicians do have, about atrocities and massacres having really occurred in Libya. From the viewpoint of one who does not have [information] sources that big powers have, it seems to be a civil war that has started in a standard way, where the government is defending itself against an uprising. However, we do not have information," Schwarzenberg said.

He dismissed the operation being called aggression. "When the U.N. Security Council gives a mandate [to it], we can no longer speak of aggression in terms of international law," he said.

Schwarzenberg labelled as "hypocrisy" the position of Russia and China, which criticise the starting air attacks on Libya though they did not veto the U.N. resolution enabling the attacks.

Schwarzenberg said it is not clear for the time being who Gaddafi's opposition is and how the situation in Libya will develop.

"No one knows now whether the regime will fall and who will come to power in Libya, if [it will be] the national committee in Benghazi or if a coup will take place in Tripoli," he said.

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