Press release

Press briefing: afternoon 22 March 2011

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

The Prime Minister's Spokesperson (PMS) answered questions on Libya.


The PMS told the assembled press that the Prime Minister had met with the Saudi Foreign Minister and that the two discussed Libya, Bahrain and events in the region.

Asked if there was any clarity regarding NATO taking command of the military operation, the PMS said that the position remained the same and referred journalists to the NATO interim statement. He said that it covered the arrangements for the arms embargo and the no-fly zone, and added that meetings were taking place, which we would provide updates on.

Asked if there was a preference as to which countries within NATO should lead the mission, the PMS said that these matters were still being discussed. Asked if the UK would be willing to take control, the PMS said to wait for the discussions to conclude.

Asked if there was some urgency for the NATO conversations to conclude, the PMS said that the operations were under US command and there was a discussion about what we moved to, but we had been clear that we should use the NATO machinery.

Asked if the Prime Minister agreed that NATO needed to conclude discussions soon to avoid embarrassment, the PMS said that processes were already taking place with NATO.

Asked to characterise the discussions at NATO, the PMS said that as with any discussions with many countries, there would be a range of views.

Put that some countries didn’t want a no-fly zone at all, the PMS said that the agreement at the UN Security Council called for the implementation of a no-fly zone and that this agreement had broad international support.

Asked if the government would like to bring other countries into the command structure, the PMS said that there were discussions going on about command structures and the need to ensure they reflected the countries involved.

Asked what the Prime Minister was doing to expedite things at NATO, the PMS explained that there were discussions ongoing and we would do what was necessary to support that.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought part of his job was to explain the current situation to the Muslim world, the PMS said that there had been a number of interviews on Arab media with government representatives, including ministers.

Asked if there were any contacts with Arab countries besides the Saudis, the PMS said that the Foreign Office and Foreign Secretary were focussed on that issue.

Questioned whether funding for the mission would come from the contingency reserve funded by the Treasury and whether the cost would be in tens of millions instead of hundreds of millions, the PMS said that it was the usual practice for urgent operational requirements to be funded by the contingency reserve.

Asked if the reaction of British Muslims to the war in Iraq would encourage the government to reach out to this group, the PMS said that he was sure that would happen. He made clear the distinction between what was happening in Libya and what had happened in Iraq. He said the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was clear about the objective of protecting civilian lives.

Asked if the National Security Council Sub-Committee on Libya was meeting today or tomorrow, the PMS confirmed it would be meeting the following morning.