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NATO To Discuss Options To Deal With Libya

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Joining us from Brussels is NPR correspondent Eric Westervelt. Good morning.

ERIC WESTERVELT: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And among the possibilities - and it's one that - it seems as if people in the street have grabbed onto - is that idea of a no-fly zone. What are you hearing there?

WESTERVELT: Well, among diplomats there's not a consensus yet, Renee, on that issue of a no-fly zone, and some diplomats here are making it clear that they don't think the situation on the ground in Libya has really reached a tipping point, so to speak, where military intervention such as a no-fly zone is really warranted.

MONTAGNE: I mean, that's a little more complicated than I think the average person thinks it is.

WESTERVELT: But there's also a worry, Renee, that even if a no-fly zone is put in place, it may not do much to help the rebels, may not prove decisive at all. I mean, Western diplomats and analysts point out that most of the recent gains by pro- regime forces, so far at least, have been through ground fighting, using mortars and artillery and automatic weapons, not through the Libyan government's air attacks, which have been relatively ineffective so far, particularly in the fighting in the east.

MONTAGNE: You know, senior American officials, though, have been saying if there were to be a no-fly zone, it would be a matter for the U.N. to take up, and shouldn't be U.S.-led. Do most NATO members feel the same?

WESTERVELT: I think so. Certainly those who support the idea. France and Britain want a no-fly zone backed by the U.N. Security Council. But as we know, Russia and China, both permanent Security Council members, are not backing the idea. Turkey as well is lukewarm to the proposal. And German diplomats are quietly expressing skepticism as well. So while NATO officials here stress that urgent planning is underway for all contingencies, in fact, Renee, it looks like discussions about a no-fly zone still have a way to go.

MONTAGNE: Well, did it make any difference that yesterday two members of Libya's opposition council visited the European Parliament and actually lobbied for both political recognition and a no-fly zone?

WESTERVELT: Among many of the regime's bizarre claims, including that this uprising is all from al-Qaida brainwashing Libyan youth, he's now also saying this is a neocolonial plot to steal Libya's oil. So NATO officials, including the secretary-general, are saying we can respond on a short notice and quickly if we need to, but they're also highlighting the sensitivities in the region to what would be military intervention in yet another Muslim country.

MONTAGNE: Eric, thanks very much.

WESTERVELT: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Eric Westervelt speaking to us from Brussels. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.