Arab League says U.N. resolution sets limits

CAIRO Fri Mar 18, 2011 12:02pm GMT

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CAIRO (Reuters) - The Arab League chief told Reuters Friday that the U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya was aimed at protecting civilians without backing any invasion, and said he did not want any side "to go too far."

Secretary-general Amr Moussa said the participation of any Arab state in implementing a no-fly zone or in other action would be discussed bilaterally as the League's own resolution backing a no-fly zone had not specified steps by states.

The League, a Cairo-based body that had suspended Libya over its handling of the uprising, had called for a no-fly zone on March 12, a step that was crucial in securing U.S. and European backing for such a measure.

"The goal is to protect civilians first of all, and not to invade or occupy. The resolution is clear on that point," Moussa said.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution Thursday endorsing a no-fly zone to halt government troops now approaching the rebel city of Benghazi and also authorised "all necessary measures" -- code for military action -- to protect civilians.

"We don't want any side to go too far, including Libya by attacking the civilian population. Our main task is to protect the Libyan civilian population. This is our task, this is our goal," said Moussa, who is bidding to be Egypt's next president after an uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak on February 11.

Asked what steps Arab states could be expected to take beyond calling for the no-fly zone, Moussa said: "This is not in the Arab League resolution. I believe this issue is being discussed on a bilateral level with some Arab countries."

He did not name any states. Diplomats have said the Gulf states of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates may join a military operation. Moussa said further discussion of how civilians would be protected would be discussed at a Paris, where President Nicolas Sarkozy is hosting leaders involved in the planning.

Asked about the role of air strikes, Moussa said that the League had "stressed the jamming of radar that would not allow the attacking of the civilian population."

"The Arab League decision was clear, what we need is a no fly zone and safe areas," he said.

(Writing by Edmund Blair, Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

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