A BULLISH David Cameron insisted it is right for Britain and the international community to “answer the call” of the Arab world and stop the “inhumanity” unfolding in Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya.
The Prime Minister said yesterday there had been a real danger the world would look on at the “horror” taking place in the North African country and do nothing.
Colonel Gaddafi’s regime yesterday announced an immediate ceasefire after Mr Cameron ordered RAF fighters to the Mediterranean to help enforce a military no-fly zone. The Prime Minister had said he was sending Typhoon and Tornado jets as part of a joint operation with the US and France to prevent a “bloodbath” in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
Addressing the Scottish Conservative conference in Perth yesterday, Mr Cameron spoke of his disgust at Gaddafi’s response to the “better future” for which the Libyan people have fighting over recent weeks.
“Gaddafi, aided by mercenaries, responded by turning the full might of his military against his own people – attacking peaceful protesters, smashing up towns like Zawiyah, using heavy weapons, aircraft, helicopter gunships, naval forces to brutally beat back those who opposed him,” Mr Cameron said.
“Now he has threatened the heavily-populated city of Benghazi. Gaddafi said every home would be searched and he would show no mercy and no pity.
“There was a real danger that the world would look on at the horror of all this and yet do nothing.
“That is why I felt so strongly that it was right to take a clear view, right to help marshal concerted international effort, and right to bring forward the action to stop this inhumanity.”
The United Nations Security Council on Thursday night approved a no-fly zone over Libya and authorised member states to employ “all measures necessary” short of putting troops on the ground. Mr Cameron said yesterday the criteria for action to take place have now been met.
He told the conference: “All along we have been clear about what was required before action could take place – a demonstrable need on the ground, strong regional support and a clear legal basis for anything that was proposed. These three conditions have now been met. “
Mr Cameron responded to fears Britain could become engaged in “another Iraq”, insisting: “It is not going to happen.”
He added: “There is, if you like, an Arab world, not just Arab leaders, asking us to act with them to stop the slaughter. We should answer that call.”
Mr Cameron insisted it was in British interests to intervene in Libya, referring to Gaddafi’s violent track record and highlighting the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, for which Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted.
“Standing by while the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people for a better future are snuffed out by brute force – that is clearly not in Britain’s interests,” the Prime Minister said.
“Think of the chilling signal it would send to other people across North Africa and the Middle East who are reaching for a better future too.
“But there are even more hard-headed reasons for the UK to take the action we propose.
“If Gaddafi’s attacks on his own people succeed, Libya will once again become a pariah state, festering on Europe’s southern border, a source of instability, exporting strife beyond her borders.
“A state from which literally hundreds of thousands of citizens could seek to escape, putting huge pressure on us in Europe.
“We must also remember that Gaddafi is a dictator who has a track record of violence and support for terrorism against our country – and against Scotland specifically.
“The people of Lockerbie, just over 100 miles away from here, they know what he is capable of.”