Page last updated at 22:19 GMT, Monday, 21 March 2011

Libya no-fly zone debate part two

Many people in the Middle East will put a "very sinister interpretation" on the coalition's military action in Libya, Conservative MP Rory Stewart has warned.

On 21 March 2011, in a Commons debate on the UN Security Council resolution authorising the intervention, the MP for Penrith and the Border said that there would not be the same level of legitimacy as there was in Kosovo because Libya "is not just an Arab country but a country with oil".

He urged the government to emphasise that their aim was "primarily humanitarian: it is to decrease the likelihood of massacre, ethnic cleansing and civil war, and to increase the likelihood of a peaceful political settlement".

But he cautioned: "It is very easy for us to say today 'so far and no further'. But all the lessons of Afghanistan are that if you dip your toes in, you are very soon up to your neck."

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn said he was "far from convinced" that people in Britain supported the action.

There was a danger that without an urgent ceasefire on all sides, the country could split into two states or even all-out civil war, the MP for Islington North said.

He also claimed that because of close military and trade ties in the region, western powers were refusing to help civilians in other countries who were fighting oppressive regimes.

Tory MP Edward Leigh said there had been "lazy thinking" in the belief that a no-fly zone would bring about the end of Gaddafi's regime.

"Missiles do not destroy regimes", he told MPs, saying there was a danger of a stalemate and there "was no enthusiasm in the country for a third conflict in the Muslim world".

Green MP Caroline Lucas said Britain needed to ensure its role was "beyond reproach" and was "consistent, principled and more likely to do good than harm".

She said: "Measuring the current military intervention so far by those benchmarks, I am not sure that they are indeed being met."

At the end of the debate, MPs voted to back the use of UK armed forces to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya by 557 to 13, a majority of 544.

Watch part one of the debate here.


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