UK Politics

Libya: Key quotes on targeting Gaddafi

The UK government has been accused of sending out mixed signals over whether it believes Colonel Muammar Gaddafi could be targeted under the terms of the UN resolution authorising military action in Libya. Here is what the key UK and US figures have said.


19.00 UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox

Asked by the BBC's John Pienaar if it was possible to hit Colonel Gaddafi "without unacceptable civilian casualties, would you try to do that?", Dr Fox said: "Well that would potentially be a possibility".

22.50 Pentagon spokesman Vice-Admiral William Gortney

"We are not going after Gaddafi. At this particular point I can guarantee he is not on the target list."


08.18 UK Foreign Secretary William Hague

"I'm not going to get drawn the detail or who might be targeted because I don't think it's right. I don't think in a conflict and the enforcement of a UN resolution to give people all the details of what might or might not be targeted is wise." Pressed on whether the resolution could be interpreted as allowing Gaddafi to be targeted, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "All the things that are allowed depends on how people behave."

11.27 Chief of the Defence General Sir David Richards

Gaddafi is "absolutely not" a target. "It is not something that is allowed under the UN resolution and it is not something that I want to discuss any further."

12.48 Downing Street sources

Government sources say it is legal under the UN resolution to target Colonel Gaddafi. Sources say under the UN resolution 1973 the Coalition have the power to target Gaddafi if he is a threat to the civilian population of Libya. The source added that Gen Sir David Richards was wrong to say it is not allowed under the UN resolution. However sources declined to say whether this meant Gaddafi was a target.

15.30 Prime Minister David Cameron

"The UN Security Council resolution is very clear about the fact that we are able to take action, including military action, to put in place a no-fly zone that prevents air attacks on Libyan people, and to take all necessary measures to stop the attacks on civilians. We must be clear what our role is, and our role is to enforce that UN Security Council resolution. Many people will ask questions—I am sure, today—about regime change, Gaddafi and the rest of it. I have been clear: I think Libya needs to get rid of Gaddafi. But, in the end, we are responsible for trying to enforce that Security Council resolution; the Libyans must choose their own future."

"The UN resolution is limited in its scope. It explicitly does not provide legal authority for action to bring about Gaddafi's removal from power by military means. As I have said, we will help to fulfil the UN Security Council's resolution. It is for the Libyan people to determine their government and their destiny, but our view is clear: there is no decent future for Libya with Colonel Gaddafi remaining in power."

17.54 US Defence Secretary Robert Gates

"I think it's pretty clear to everybody that Libya would be better off without Gaddafi. But that is a matter for the Libyans themselves to decide. And I think, given the opportunity and the absence of repression, they may well do that. But I think it is a mistake for us to set that (targeting Gaddafi) as a goal of our military operation."

22.40 UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt

"Firstly it's an operational matter what's targeted, but any operation that takes place will be fully in accordance with the UN resolution - which is to protect civilians or to take action that will establish a no-fly zone. That's the operational parameters." Pressed on whether that entitled the UK to target Gaddafi, he said: "I believe that what it entitles the government to do is act in accordance with the resolution and, acting with our partners, is to take the steps that will protect the Libyans or establish a no-fly zone."


11.16 UK Defence Minister Nick Harvey

"Our targets are not individuals, our targets are the military capability that runs the risk of presenting a threat to the Libyan population. The departure of Colonel Gaddafi is very much the political objective of the British government. But that is not what the United Nations resolution has provided for - the United Nations resolution has set about a military process of degrading the military threat that is presented to the Libyan population. So it will be politically desirable for Gaddafi to be gone but that is not the objective of the military campaign."

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