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A firm policy against Gaddafi

Recognition of the rebel Council and an embargo on oil money is urgently needed in Libya

The international community can no longer remain passive in the face of the unequal civil war that has developed from the initially peaceful protests against Muammar Gaddafi. The tyrant, who has governed Libya since 1969, is using a military machine against the population, sustained by oil revenue, which is still flowing regularly into the coffers of a man who not only heads Africa's longest-lived dictatorial regime, but has also earned the title of war criminal for the suffering he has inflicted on his own compatriots.

The changing vicissitudes of the conflict between the army and the opposition to Gaddafi tend to disguise what is really happening on the ground. In the face of the international community's inaction and disconcerted rhetoric, the dictator is using aerial bombing and artillery to raze the cities that have so far escaped his control, thanks to improvised militias recruited from the same people who, at first, peacefully demanded their rights.

The fact that open international military intervention has, for the moment, been ruled out — given that it would undermine the legitimacy of the popular revolt, compromising the country's political future — is not equivalent to maintaining a passive stance. Even supposing that Gaddafi is eventually successful in reconquering the territory he has lost, and in holding onto power, the international community could never accept such an outrageous situation.

It is necessary, for this reason, to recognize as soon as possible the Libyan National Council, the organ created by the anti-Gaddafi opposition in order to govern in the cities wrested from his control. If the Council is defeated, such recognition would be the prelude to international ostracism for a man who is prepared to turn his country into a mass cemetery in order to keep himself in power. On the other hand, if the Council wins, the decision to recognize it will not only have been the right one morally, but politically sound as well.

Cutting off the money flow

Recognition would convey an unmistakable message of support for those who are fighting the dictator at the cost of their lives, and would also establish an international juridical basis for cutting off the flow of oil money with which Gaddafi is committing this new crime. Not to do so is as much as helping to finance the massacre. The Libyan colonel must know that the petroleum reserves that until now have been his to use as he wishes, will no longer serve as his lever for acceptance in the civilized world.

The Security Council should urgently consider the possibility of establishing a no-fly zone over Libya, in accordance with the mechanisms provided for in the UN Charter. No one else can perform this protective role for the insurgents in these critical moments, when the principal powers are looking askance at one another, weighing the advantages that one or the other might derive from a firm policy against Gaddafi, which would necessarily include recognition of the Libyan provisional government, and an embargo on the dictator's oil income.

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