April 19, 2011 / 1:18 PM / 8 years ago

France opposes idea of sending troops to Libya

PARIS (Reuters) - France is opposed to the idea of sending troops into Libya to guide air strikes as the West struggles to break a military stalemate in the North African country, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Tuesday.

Juppe said the situation in Libya was “difficult” and “confused” a month after France launched the first U.N.-mandated strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

He added that the West had underestimated the Libyan leader’s ability to adapt his tactics in response to the coalition campaign.

Gaddafi’s army has switched to light vehicles like pickup trucks after strikes led by France, Britain and the United States targeted his tanks and heavy weaponry.

“I remain absolutely opposed to a deployment of troops on the ground,” Juppe told reporters, saying it would not be allowed under a United Nations Security Council resolution permitting the intervention in Libya.

“It is likely ... that there will not be a military solution,” he added.

The head of the French national assembly’s foreign affairs committee, ruling conservative party member Axel Poniatowski, said this week that only an intervention by ground troops could boost the coalition’s Libya campaign, which has flagged as Gaddafi shelters his armor in civilian areas.

“What we have perhaps underestimated is Muammar Gaddafi’s capacity to adapt,” Juppe said.

Britain said on Tuesday it would send military officers, believed to number around a dozen, to help Libyan rebels, whose fighting has been disorganized and lacked leadership.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to meet the head of Libya’s rebel opposition, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, in Paris on Wednesday to discuss ways to move forward on a political solution.

Juppe said a political solution would require a “real” ceasefire and for the rebel opposition to sit down around a negotiating table with tribal leaders and defected Gaddafi officials. He added that military pressure should be maintained and even intensified to encourage more defections.

Abdel Jalil is expected to ask Sarkozy that NATO ramp up its air strikes and could supply a list of names of officials in Tripoli with whom the opposition would be willing to work if Gaddafi departs, a source close to the Libyan opposition said.

It will be the first time Sarkozy — the first foreign leader to recognize the interim national transition council — will meet its leader, formerly Gaddafi’s justice minister.

Writing by Catherine Bremer, Editing by Andrew Heavens

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