A PROLONGED conflict in Libya would result in increased civilian casualties and humanitarian problems, Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore said, amid fears that a stalemate was developing in the country.
At a meeting of European Union foreign ministers, he said Ireland had been very supportive of an approach that avoided civilian casualties, protecting civilians and dealing with the humanitarian situation.
The EU debated providing military protection for refugees and delivering humanitarian aid to the besieged city of Misrata.
Mr Gilmore said most agreed this would require a UN request and added that in the event of a request, the Government would consider whether to take part.
The country’s third largest city is under siege for several weeks from government troops amid reports that food, water and medical supplies were running short.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe accused NATO of not being aggressive enough and said they were not fulfilling their job of destroying Gaddafi’s heavy weapons. He was particularly anxious that they come to the aid of Misrata.
He was supported by British Foreign Secretary William Hague who said NATO should intensify efforts and appealed to countries to provide additional ground-strike aircraft.
NATO retorted quickly, saying it was conducting the operation “with vigour”, adding the pace was dictated by the need to protect the population.
They took control of the operation at the end of March, despite French opposition, from a coalition under the US.
There are growing fears that the US withdrawal from ground strikes and limitations placed by several European states on the use of warplanes in Libya was allowing Gaddafi to hang onto power and was leading to a stalemate.
Mr Gilmore said they needed some political resolution that would see Gaddafi move on, enabling Libya to become a democracy.
Earlier this week the Libyan Foreign Ministry warned the UN, the African Union and the EU against coming to the rescue of Misrata saying they would meet violent resistance.
A representative of the rebel Libyan Transitional Council outlined to EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg yesterday a time table of events once Gaddafi goes that would see an interim government for six months drawing up a new constitution and holding a referendum; parliamentary elections within two months and two months later, presidential elections.
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