Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing: afternoon from 21 March 2011

From the Prime Minister's Spokesperson on Libya.

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


Asked if UN Security Council Resolution 1973 (UNSCR 1973) allowed us to target Gaddafi, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that the Prime Minister had made the position clear in his statement to the House just now.  When speaking about the aims of UNSCR 1973 the Prime Minister said that it provided for the setting up of a no-fly zone (NFZ) and the protection of civilians.  Those objectives could be enforced using ‘all necessary measures’. 

In terms of targets the Prime Minister had said earlier in his statement that we would choose our targets to stop attacks on civilians and to implement the NFZ, but that we would not give a running commentary on targeting.

The PMS went on to say that the Prime Minister had made the point at the end of his statement that there was no stated objective in UNSCR 1973 to bring about Gaddafi’s removal from power, which was a point about objectives not targets.

Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) that targeting Gaddafi would not be allowed, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had made the position clear in his statement and we would not get into commenting on targets.

Asked if the Prime Minister had full confidence in the CDS, the PMS said yes.

Asked if there was evidence of Gaddafi and his regime breaking the ceasefire last night, the PMS said that the media reports were there for all to see.  President Obama had set some conditions we wanted to see met which would, in our view, be consistent with an effective ceasefire.  These included pulling back forces from Benghazi and several other coastal towns, and ensuring that the water, gas and electricity supplies were operating.  This had not happened.

Asked if the Prime Minister favoured NATO taking the lead in the military operation, the PMS said yes.

Put that the Italian Interior Minister had voiced concerns about an exodus of refugees, including terrorists, from Libya to southern Europe, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had made similar points in the debate earlier when he spoke about the dangers of a pariah state festering on Europe’s southern border.  The Prime Minister was concerned about the prospect of Libya exporting terror to other countries including our own.

Asked if there would be a safe passage for Gaddafi, the PMS said that our position was that Gaddafi should go, but our immediate focus was implementation of UNSCR 1973.

Asked who could replace Gaddafi, the PMS said that was a decision for the Libyan people.

Asked if the Attorney General’s legal advice had to be approved by UN allies, the PMS said that the Attorney General’s job was to provide legal advice to the Government.

Asked how confident the Prime Minister was that we would be able to achieve the objectives of UNSCR 1973, the PMS said that we had already achieved a lot by halting the regime’s progress towards Benghazi.

Published 21 March 2011