- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 15, 2011

PARIS (AP) — France expects a U.N. resolution this week offering support for Libyan rebels, the French foreign minister said Tuesday, though world powers failed to agree on military action against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

Top diplomats from the Group of Eight prominent world economies warned Gadhafi of “dire consequences” if he does not “respect the legitimate claim of the Libyan people to fundamental rights, freedom of expression, and a representative form of government,” according to a final statement from a foreign ministers’ meeting in Paris.

Alain Juppe defended France’s move to recognize Libya’s opposition last week, even though Gadhafi’s forces have since regained ground from the rebels.

The G-9 ministers agreed that more action within the U.N. Security Council is needed to pressure Gadhafi to leave — possibly through new sanctions, but not military action, diplomats said.

Juppe said he expected a U.N. resolution helping the rebels “this week.” He did not elaborate on details of the resolution, which is still being discussed.

He acknowledged that French and British efforts for a no-fly zone or targeted air strikes on Moammar Gadhafi’s forces have failed to win broader diplomatic support.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country is waiting for more details from the Arab League about its proposals for Libya before approving any military intervention.

Germany’s envoy said his country was “very skeptical” about military action against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

“We do not want to get sucked into a war in North Africa. We want to avoid any slippery slope in this direction,” Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle said.

British Foreign Minister William Hague, whose country has led the call with France for a no-fly zone, all but acknowledged that their effort had hit a roadblock — even if some consensus is emerging in other areas.

“So while not every nation sees eye-to-eye like for issues like a no fly zone, there is a common appetite to increase the pressure on the Gadhafi regime,” he told reporters.

Insurgents who control much of eastern Libya have called for a no-fly zone, as forces loyal to Gadhafi strike back with tanks and planes — pressing eastward against the rebels.

Many countries have called for an end to Gadhafi’s 42-year autocratic reign, but economic sanctions have so far failed to stop his regime.

Juppe suggested in a radio interview Tuesday that events on the ground in Libya have already outpaced diplomatic efforts.

“If we had used military force last week to neutralize some airstrips and the several dozen planes that they have, perhaps the reversal taking place to the detriment of the opposition wouldn’t have happened,” Juppe told Europe-1 radio. “But that’s the past.”

“What is happening today shows us that we may have let slip by a chance,” he added.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who on Monday met with her counterparts and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was en route to Egypt for talks and was not attending the ministers’ gathering Tuesday.

Also Monday, Clinton held the Obama administration’s first high-level talks with the Libyan opposition. The U.S. remains undecided about how much support to lend to a group it still knows little about.


Alessandra Rizzo in Rome contributed to this report.

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