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Denmark ready for intervention in Libya

Danish politicians ready for operations against Libya.

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By Bo Søndergaard in Libya, Thomas Lauritzen in Brussels and Mads Brandstrup

An overwhelming majority of the Danish Parliament is prepared to send the Danish Air Force to Libya to enforce a no-fly zone, even if the United Nations is unable to agree on intervention.

"The United Nations Security Council has been asleep. And in the meantime only one thing has happened – Gaddafi has built up increasing momentum against the pro-democratic forces,” says Liberal Foreign Policy Spokesman Michael Astrup Jensen.

Socialist support
In an unusual turn of events, the Socialist People’s Party – which has been against both the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan, has lent its support to intervention.

“We would prefer there to be a UN mandate, but I don’t think it would be morally acceptable if the international community just sat and watched while Gaddafi is allowed to kill rebels and a large section of the civilian population,” says Socialist People’s Party Leader Villy Søvndal.

The Social Democratic Party, the Social Liberals and the Danish People’s Party also support intervention without a UN mandate if necessary.

Bombs in Ajdabiya
In Libya, there are many who believe it will be necessary. In Ajdabiya, little Mona woke to the sound of bombs falling close to her home. Now she is fleeing the area and staring out of a car window at an expanse of desert and the road that will lead her family away from the war.

Her pregnant mother is in the front seat and her father explains why they are escaping.

“My wife is pregnant and I’m afraid she will lose our child if we stay at home. Gaddafi’s army is bombing everywhere at random. The hospital, bus station, blocks of flats. I saw two old men dead in the road,” says Ali Moussa Muhammed, who is taking his family towards Egypt where his wife has family.

As bombs dropped on Ajdabiya yesterday, the United Nations was embroiled in a hectic international game. France, Britain and the Arab League were battling against the clock to get a new resolution passed in the Security Council that would allow the introduction of a no-fly zone.

And as France and Britain attempted to win over the scepticism of Russia and China, Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam fired a broadside at the United Nations.

“In 48 hours it will all be over. Our troops are almost in Benghazi. Irrespective of what they decide, it will be too late,” Saif al-Islam said.

At the same time he described French president Nicolas Sarkozy as a ‘clown’ and claimed Sarkozy’s election campaign had been ‘financed with Libyan money’- something Sarkozy rejected. The French president went on to urge the 15 countries in the UN Security Council to support a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace.

“Let's save the martyred Libyan people together. Time is now counted in days, or even hours. The worst would be for the Arab League's call and the Security Council's decisions to fail because of armed force,” Sarkozy said.

US: No-fly not enough
The United States has hitherto been treading water on whether it would take part in enforcing a no-fly zone.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that irrespective of a UN decision, such a zone would have to include Arab leadership and participation.

Overnight at the United Nations, however, US Ambassador Susan Rice suggested that a no-fly zone would not be enough.

Rice said a no-fly zone would only bring limited help.

“We need to prepare to contemplate steps that go beyond a no fly zone,” Rice told reporters at the United Nations, apparently indicating US willingness for a more resolute intervention.

Rebels fear bloodbath
Rebels in Beghazi warned yesterday that the international community has to take its decision now if a bloodbath is to be avoided.

"He will kill civilians, he will kill dreams, he will destroy us. It will be on the international community's conscience," Jalal Al Gallal of the opposition Transitional National Council told the BBC.

Red Cross withdraws
The Red Cross announced overnight that it is now withdrawing from Benghazi as it fears an imminent attack. The ICRC said it had transferred its staff to Tobruk where it will continue to operate, but duties in Benghazi and Ajdabiya would be continued by the Libyan Red Crescent.

"We are extremely concerned about what will happen to civilians, the sick and wounded, detainees and others who are entitled to protection in times of conflict," Simon Brooks, head of the ICRC mission in Libya told the BBC.

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