Tackling a tyrant’s rule

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DAVID Cameron had little choice on how to tackle Muammar Gaddafi. The Libyan despot’s attempts to crush the stirrings of democracy had already resulted in much bloodshed and the West could not stand by and do nothing. With the backing of Arab nations, Britain and America were finally able to form a credible coalition for action.

While the reliance on the clout of America was inevitable, it was the support of the Arab League that was vital yesterday at the UN. Eight years on from the resolution which led to the invasion of Iraq, the enforcing of a military no-fly zone should not be seen as a form of interference in the Muslim world, but an attempt to protect the Libyan people from the bullying of a capricious leader.

Gaddafi’s regime has killed many of its own citizens already and the threat of a bloodbath in the rebel city of Benghazi, uttered increasingly over the last 48 hours, had to be taken seriously. The cross-party consensus at Westminster underlines the fact that it was time to follow up words with action on Libya.

Mr Cameron’s decision to send RAF fighters to the Mediterranean puts British lives at risk. This is always the heaviest responsibility faced by a Prime Minister but it is for a greater good, however, because of the threat that Gaddafi still poses to his citizens and to the world.

While the dictator’s announcement of a ceasefire yesterday afternoon should be treated with relief, the West knows it cannot rely on the word of a deeply unpleasant and dangerous leader. The Lockerbie disaster and the murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher illustrates Gaddafi’s appalling track record.

Now the UN must consider how it expects events in Libya to conclude. Gaddafi’s apparent step back from the brink leaves him weakened but still defiant and has created the prospect of a lengthy stand-off between his army and the rebels.

It is also difficult to know how the African nation can continue to function as a society, particularly in terms of providing education and basic healthcare, given the convulsions of the last month.The UN must continue to put pressure on Gaddafi because, seven years after Tony Blair’s “deal in the desert” that was supposed to herald a new era, Libya is unreformed and Gaddafi unrepentant.