Will NATO continue bombing Libya in Ramadan? France says ‘Yes’


Coalition military action against Muammar Qaddafi’s forces will continue through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan unless he submits to demands to step down and calls a ceasefire, France’s Foreign Minister said on Friday.

The minister, Alain Juppé, said an international contact group on Libya meeting in Istanbul has agreed to recognize the Benghazi-based opposition as the “legitimate government authority” for Libya and Colonel Qaddafi had no political future in the country.

The meeting has also agreed a road map whereby Colonel Qaddafi should relinquish power and all military responsibility and call a ceasefire. It also drew up plans for Libya’s transition to democracy.

“The road map is very clear first of all a clear announcement by Qaddafi of his intention to relinquish power and specially his military responsibilities, then a genuine ceasefire under the control of the U.N. and we hope of the African Union,” Mr. Juppé said.

The road map then envisages the Libyan people holding a national convention, that would include tribal leaders and representatives from the capital Tripoli, currently under Colonel Qaddafi’s control.

After that a constitution should be written and parliamentary elections held to establish democracy.

Mr. Juppé said representatives of Muslim countries had indicated it was permissible to continue to conduct attacks on “Qaddafi’s forces in order to protect civilians during Ramadan, which begins at the start of August.

“We have decided to continue our military operations during the month of August,” Mr. Juppe told journalists on the sidelines of the meeting.

“According to several of the countries participating in the contact group there is no contradiction between the religious rules during the Ramadan period and the continuation of our military intervention.”

Together with France, Britain has taken a lead role in the NATO mission to protect Libyan civilians from attack by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces and enforce a no-fly zone.

Mr. Juppé said recognition of the rebel Transitional National Council was included in the final declaration to be released at the end of the one-day meeting in Istanbul.

He said France would give the council $250 million from Libyan assets frozen by the United Nations to choke the Qaddafi government of funds. Italy has also decided to support the council, in part using assets frozen in Italy as collateral.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton were among more than a dozen foreign ministers attending the Istanbul talks, along with heads of NATO, the Arab League and other regional organizations. In total more than 30 governments and international organizations were attending the one-day meeting.