Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning From 18 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) spoke to the assembled press about the process leading to the UN Security Council Resolution on Libya.

He explained that the Prime Minister had made a number of phone calls on Wednesday to the King of Saudi, the Crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the Prime Minister of Qatar, and the Prime Minister of Canada.  On Thursday he spoke to the King of Jordan, the President of South Africa, the Prime Minister of Qatar, and the German Chancellor.  He also sent a message to President of Nigeria and spoke to the Danish Prime Minister.  Later on Thursday, he spoke to President Obama, and this morning he spoke to President Sarkozy.
Alongside these calls were broad diplomatic efforts with the Foreign Secretary and National Security Advisor making complimentary calls to their equivalents.

The PMS reported that Cabinet had met at 9am.  Members were given copies of the Prime Minister’s statement and legal advice from the Attorney General.  There was a broad discussion on a range of issues on Libya and strong support around the table.  The Cabinet formally agreed on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 (UNSCR 1973) and to enforcing it in full.

When asked if military planes could be expected to fly to Libya in next few hours the PMS said that UNSCR 1973 called for immediate ceasefire and if that didn’t happen action would follow.  He said that the Prime Minister had reassured the House that this could be done to an effective timescale.

Questioned on the military chain of command and whether this would be done under NATO command structure, the PMS said that UNSCR 1973 authorised a range of options and that the UK was talking to partners including regional partners.

Asked whether the Government was moving military assets, the PMS referred to the Prime Minister’s comments in the House where he spoke about deploying Tornadoes, Typhoons and surveillance aircraft.  Preparations to deploy had already started, and military assets would be based at existing bases in the Mediterranean.

Asked whether the two conversations with the Qatari Prime Minister indicated that their military facilities were going to be used, the PMS said that he couldn’t go into those specifics.

Questioned about the Parliamentary process, the PMS said that there would be a substantive motion and debate and then a vote, which would happen on Monday.

Asked whether military action could be taken before a vote, the PMS repeated the Prime Minister’s comments in the Commons that the House would understand if the situation required us to move forward immediately before the vote next week.

Questioned on whether there was any suggestion that the Budget might be moved, the PMS said that it wouldn’t.

Asked how long we would wait for a ceasefire before we took action, the PMS said that UNSCR 1973 called for an immediate ceasefire and that there would be a joint statement later today setting out what was expected from Gaddafi.

Questioned on whether ‘no occupation forces’ meant the same as no ground troops at all, the PMS said that the resolution called for ‘all necessary measures’, but excluded ‘an occupation force’.  He said that we were deploying the forces necessary to get the job done and would use legitimate measures to achieve those aims.

Asked for further details on the wider conversations between London and Washington, the PMS said that there had been close contact between the two countries over the past days at all levels.

Asked if it was possible that Gaddafi could stay in place as UNSCR 1973 didn’t call for regime change, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had said that he didn’t think that Gaddafi staying in place was consistent with a democratic future for Libya.  But the resolution was clear on what it authorised.

Asked who would lead the military chain of command, the PMS said that discussions were taking place with international partners to see how best to achieve the aims of UNSCR 1973.

Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to President Obama after UNSCR 1973 had passed and if there was a joint strategy with the US, the PMS confirmed that a conversation had taken place and that we had been working closely with US.

Asked where the military would be based and if it could be Cyprus, the PMS said that he couldn’t confirm operational details.

Questioned on what Arab participation would look like, the PMS confirmed that discussions were still taking place on those issues.

Asked if the Government would publish the Attorney General’s legal advice, the PMS confirmed that a note setting out legal basis for any deployment would be made available. 

Asked if there were any dissenting voices in Cabinet, the PMS said that the Cabinet was united.

Asked for a summary of the Attorney General’s comments at Cabinet, the PMS said that he wouldn’t summarise the advice, but said that the Prime Minister had been clear that a legal basis was required and clearly this was met by UNSCR 1973.

Asked which Arab states would be involved, the PMS said that he wouldn’t go into operational details at this stage.

Asked if the Attorney General spoke at Cabinet and provided advice on Britain’s ability to sustain a no-fly zone, the PMS said that he wouldn’t go into details on the Attorney General’s advice.

Asked about the budgetary consequences of the resolution, the PMS said that discussions on how we implemented the resolution were ongoing and that we shouldn’t get ahead of that.

Asked when, on the evening before, the Prime Minister thought the resolution would go through, the PMS replied that it was not until late on that we knew it would be agreed.

Asked whether calls were made to Russia and China, the PMS confirmed that a range of calls had been made across Government. 

Asked if President Obama and the Prime Minister deliberately didn’t speak to each other as part of a broader strategy, the PMS said that there had been careful and thoughtful planning about how to sequence the Prime Minister’s intervention in the process.  The first calls he made were to Arab leaders.

Asked if anyone in the international community had been named to speak to the Gaddafi regime, the PMS confirmed that there was a UN Special Envoy.

Asked if protecting civilians referred to the whole of Libya or just Benghazi, the PMS confirmed that it was all of Libya.

Asked if the Deputy Prime Minister spoke at Cabinet and what he said, the PMS confirmed that the Deputy Prime Minister had spoken but said he wouldn’t be giving details of the Cabinet discussion.

Published 18 March 2011