Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing: afternoon from 17 March 2011

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on Libya.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that the Prime Minister had made some further calls on Libya, following his calls last night.  The PMS said that we would not get into specifics about those calls, but they were to Arab and African leaders.  Talking to Arab leaders was important and the Prime Minister was making the case for Arab involvement in implementing anything authorised by the UN.  When talking to African leaders, the Prime Minister was making a strong case for action by the United Nations Security Council.

The United Nations Security Council was about to meet and there was a text before the Council which was a composite draft resolution.  In addition to the points in the text we tabled on Tuesday evening, which included a no-fly zone, broader asset freeze and measures to enforce the arms embargo, there were also references to a ceasefire and measures to protect civilians.  Negotiations were ongoing in the meeting so the draft on the table could change during the course of the day.  We still thought there was a good chance of a vote tonight, but it was difficult to make an assessment as to when that would be.

The PMS went on to say that the Prime Minister had just chaired a meeting of the National Security Council which considered the situation in Japan, in Bahrain and the negotiations at the United Nations Security Council on Libya.

Asked for further detail on the composite text, the PMS said that various amendments had been put together as a starting point for negotiations today.  The text reflected amendments put in by a range of countries.  The composite resolution was the starting point for negotiations today.

Asked about whether a no-fly zone would be implemented immediately, the PMS said that we should focus on the next steps, which were the negotiations.

Asked about what was meant by ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians, the PMS referred to what the Prime Minister had already said - that we should look at and plan for all eventualities.  The Prime Minister had said yesterday that he did not think a no-fly zone was on its own enough to protect civilians.

Asked when the Prime Minister last spoke to Obama, the PMS said that the dynamic around the United Nations table needed to be considered.  There were a collection of countries and it needed nine people voting in favour. Throughout the process, we had thought about how best to deploy the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and our diplomatic effort more generally in order to shift opinion.  We would not discuss precisely who we had spoken to whom at this point.

Asked why the National Security Council had met, the PMS said there were lots of cross-Government meetings at the moment on Japan, Bahrain and Libya.  This was about co-ordinating activity across Whitehall and making sure we were doing the right thing.

Asked about the link between a ceasefire and a no-fly zone, the PMS said that we did not yet have a final text.  The composite resolution was a starting point for today and he would not discuss this in detail in advance.

Asked if the Government would now consider its Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in light of current events, the PMS said that the SDSR was based on analysis which said the world was going to be more uncertain in future.  We were planning our forces for 2020 on the basis that they needed to prepare for a more uncertain world.  If we were to repeat the analysis today it would reinforce that conclusion.

Published 17 March 2011