Britain, Qatar give message of support to Libyans

LONDON Tue Mar 29, 2011 7:03pm EDT

Rebel fighters run under machine gun fire and mortars after forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi attacked them near Bin Jawad in eastern Libya, March 29, 2011. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Rebel fighters run under machine gun fire and mortars after forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi attacked them near Bin Jawad in eastern Libya, March 29, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain and Qatar, countries which have led international opposition to Muammar Gaddafi, told ordinary Libyans Wednesday that they would not desert them as they seek to build a peaceful future.

Britain hosted a conference Tuesday at which international powers stepped up pressure on Gaddafi to quit as Libyan leader, saying that military action would continue while he threatened his people in a conflict with rebels seeking an end to his 41 years of autocratic rule.

The conference set up a new group to drive international cooperation on Libya, with Arab nation Qatar preparing to host the first meeting of that body.

"All this -- the conference, the Contact Group, the international resolve -- sends a clear message to Colonel Gaddafi: we will not allow you to continue to brutalize your own people," British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani wrote.

"And it sends a message of hope to the Libyan people too: we are on your side," they added in an article in Wednesday's edition of Asharq Al-Awsat, a London-based, Pan-Arab newspaper.

"We will continue to protect their lives, defend their rights and support their aspirations -- and we will continue to support them on the path that they choose to take."

The article summed up the conclusions of the conference and made no mention of arming rebels or allowing Gaddafi to go into exile -- two of the ideas floated to avoid a stalemate.

Gaddafi's better armed and organized troops reversed the westward charge of insurgents Tuesday after U.N.-backed air strikes had helped them to seize a series of towns.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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