ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Military action against Muammar Gaddafi’s government will be intensified while a U.N. envoy presses for negotiations to end the conflict in Libya, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Friday.
Hague said the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy to Libya, Abdul Elah Al-Khatib, would be authorized to present terms for Gaddafi to leave power and bring an end to the bloodshed that began with a popular uprising against his 41-year rule in February.
“He (special envoy) has taken a central role in this contact group meeting and we see him as the channel for negotiations and for political settlement, while the military pressure on the regime will continue to intensify,” Hague said in an interview with Reuters during an international Libya contact group meeting in Istanbul.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, were among more than a dozen foreign ministers attending the Istanbul talks, along with heads of NATO, the Arab League and other regional organizations. More than 30 governments and international organizations were attending the one-day meeting.
Together with France, Britain has taken a lead role in the NATO mission to protect Libyan civilians from attack by Gaddafi’s forces and enforce a no-fly zone.
“The people of Benghazi are there and the city was not stormed because of the NATO action. The same applies to Misrata, equally many people in the Western mountains have benefited from that,” Hague said.
“Of course, we all want to follow it through to the real success of the political settlement in Libya that requires Colonel Gaddafi to go,” Hague said. “Military action will intensify.”
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on Thursday for members of the alliance to provide more aircraft to bomb Gaddafi’s forces.
Britain said on Friday it would send four more Tornado warplanes for the NATO mission in Libya, in addition to the 12 already deployed to support the more modern Eurofighter Typhoons.
Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Peter Cooney