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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Hague backs NATO change to attack Libya's infrastructure

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, May 17, IRNA -- Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed support for Britain's army chief General Sir David Richards in controversially calling to step up the bombing campaign in Libya to include country's infrastructure but denied it was outside the UN mandate.

“I do agree with the comments of the Chief of the Defence Staff, but they did not relate to regime change; they related to implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions,” Hague said.

“Over the last few weeks the (Libyan) regime forces have tried to adapt to what we have done to implement the resolutions. They have made themselves look like the forces of the other side, and have fought in a more asymmetric way,” he said.

“In such circumstances it is legitimate for NATO to increase the proportion of targets that are the command and control systems of the regime forces who are harassing and threatening the civilian population,” Hague told parliament during a debate on the Middle East and North Africa on Monday.

Several MPs raised concern that such a policy change, including to rules of engagement, amounted to regime change rather than the mandated protection of civilians and questioned whether it was legal and if it had been discussed with NATO colleagues.

In response, the foreign secretary admitted that it would have to be discussed with Britain's partners involved in the bombing campaign but said “all targeting is discussed in NATO.”

“But certainly it is our opinion that it comes within the scope of United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 that if particular items of infrastructure are particularly supporting the military effort and the regime’s effort to make war against civilians, those would also be legitimate targets,” he insisted.

NATO, Hague told MPs, had already conducted more than “2,600 strike sorties since 31 March, destroying ammunition stores, armoured and other vehicles and surface-to-air missile launchers, while at sea 20 ships are now patrolling the central Mediterranean under NATO command to enforce the arms embargo.”

On the question of legality, he gave assurance that the attorney general is always included in discussions, but said he “cannot undertake to give a running commentary on legal advice.”

The government “will stay within the scope of the UN resolution, with legal advice” but MPs “must bear in mind that as the situation changes, what is targeted and the methods necessary to achieve our objectives will sometimes have to change,” Hague said.

“It would not be effective to say that we are only ever going to target the same things. Many different parts of the apparatus of the regime in Libya that are engaged in prosecuting a war against its own civilians have not actually been targeted yet,” he said.

The foreign secretary heard concern voiced about the increase in the scope and range of the mission to resolve the stalemate created, but refused to give an undertaking call off the campaign even if the regime of Muammar Gaddafi complied fully with resolution 1973 to have a genuine ceasefire.

“It would certainly not bring to an end the enforcement of a no-fly zone, the arms embargo and so many parts of the UN resolution, but in that situation the position — the need to protect civilians from attack — would be different.” he said, again suggesting Gaddafi could not remain in power.

During the debate, Stop the War Coalition (SWTC) held an emergency protest outside the Prime Minister's Office to demand an immediate end to NATO's bombing of Libya and to start negotiations to reach a peaceful resolution to the civil war.

“MPs have got into the habit of supporting wars of aggression against foreign countries, with disastrous consequences in Iraq and Afghanistan,” STWC said, adding it predicted two months ago, NATO's military intervention in Libya would lead to full scale war.

Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA NewsCode: 30390540

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