March 10, 2011 / 7:00 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-France wants targeted Libya bombing option explored

* Sarkozy to propose action plan on Libya at EU summit

* Sarkozy party members say targeted strikes one option

By Emmanuel Jarry

PARIS, March 10 (Reuters) - France wants to explore the possibility of targeted bombing of Libya as an alternative to imposing a no-fly zone, French officials and sources said on Thursday.

President Nicolas Sarkozy raised the idea during talks with members of his UMP political party, three party sources said.

“Extremely limited, but targeted strikes in specific cases and not necessarily on airbases is being explored,” a member of Sarkozy’s party who attended a lunch with him at the Elysee Palace told Reuters.

Sarkozy will present concrete plans for a response to the crisis at a European Union summit on Friday in Brussels and according to the source the possibility of air strikes was among the things being worked on.

The U.N. Security Council is split on whether to authorise a no-fly zone over Libya, an option Paris and London have pushed as they seek ways to limit Muammar Gaddafi’s ability to mobilise his forces against rebels.

Targeted bombing would constitute a “lighter” alternative to the no-fly zone, French officials said.

“We can bomb runways,” said one. “Between that and a no-fly zone, there is a whole range of options that the military can decide upon.”

Mahmoud Jebril and Ali Essewi of the rebel Libyan National Council met Sarkozy in Paris on Thursday, after which Paris announced that it would recognise the council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

The plan Sarkozy would be putting to EU leaders on Friday would seek “to save the Libyan people from the suffering and massacre being perpetrated against it and to safeguard the future and the country”, Jebril said.

Neither the foreign ministry nor Sarkozy’s office would elaborate on the bombing option.


Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said his French counterpart Alain Juppe had made no mention of the idea at Thursday’s meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels and he was unaware of the proposal but he said Italy would not take part in any such operation.

“Italy will not take part in targeted bombings in Libya,” he told reporters. “Italy wants a Security Council resolution that would enable the ban of the Libyan air force, not to go bombing in its territory.”

European Union foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels on Thursday, in part to discuss Libya. NATO defence ministers were also meeting. [ID:nLDE7281SR]

Bernard-Henri Lévy, a French intellectual close to Sarkozy who has just returned from a fact finding mission in Libya and attended the meetings between Sarkozy and the LNC, told Reuters the president considered it “too difficult” to create a no-fly zone as requested by the LNC.

Additional reporting by John Irish and Yves Clarisse in Paris; James Mackenzie in Rome and Annika Breidthardt in Berlin; Writing by Brian Love and John Irish

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