Coalition Countries Have Different Ideas About Libya

Originally published on March 23, 2011 8:00 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Welcome to the program.

ARTHUR GOLDHAMMER: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Let's start with the Europeans, Britain and France. What do they disagree on when you talk about them and the United States?

GOLDHAMMER: The British wanted a greater NATO involvement. France wants a political buffer between the NATO command and the actual control of the operation in order to ensure that there is greater input from Arab states, so that this is not a Western operation that might be mistaken for a reassertion of colonial power.

INSKEEP: Well, now that's interesting, because when you begin giving those lists it just sounds like little administrative tempests. But it sounds like some of these countries think that there are real matters of substance behind these disagreements.

GOLDHAMMER: Well, France at least is presenting it in that light. And I am not privy to the actual discussions, so I can't say much more on that point.

INSKEEP: Are all these countries fundamental interests the same?

GOLDHAMMER: Well, there is certainly a paramount fundamental interest, which is the humanitarian one, which all of the countries have declared - protecting the citizens of Libya from attack by Colonel Gadhafi's forces. Beyond that it's difficult to say. Every country has its own national interests, of course.

INSKEEP: Some of them depend on Libyan oil more than others, for example.

GOLDHAMMER: Gadhafi did agree to release the nurses. And in exchange, France made certain promises to sell weapons to Libya and to build a nuclear power plant. Gadhafi also made promises to sell gas to the French national gas company, GDF Suez.

INSKEEP: So awkward seeming business relationships and diplomatic relationships now. And how much more complicated does this become? Because there is this effort to keep Arab nations onboard.

GOLDHAMMER: And I can only speculate that that will become even more difficult as the military operations wear on, since the rebels seem not to be making progress with the level of air support they've currently received.

INSKEEP: Civilian casualties can make a big difference there I imagine.

GOLDHAMMER: Certainly. We can only imagine what images will be broadcast throughout the Arab world as this operation proceeds.

INSKEEP: Mr. Goldhammer, thanks very much.

GOLDHAMMER: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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