The Norwegian government will neither send arms to the opponents of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi nor contribute to any moves to send ground troops into the country. Defense Minister Grete Faremo was visiting Norwegian military forces involved in the Libyan operation on Wednesday, and said she won’t support delivering weapons to those trying to topple Gadhafi.
Faremo, who arrived during the night at the military base on Crete where Norwegian forces are now stationed, followed up on remarks made by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday. He told the Norwegian Parliament that the UN-backed operation in which Norway is participating may take time, but he stressed that it won’t involve a “hunt for Gadhafi” by the international coalition.
“Norway supports a UN-led world, and use of military force is sometimes necessary,” Stoltenberg said. “But there’s no military solution to the problems in Libya, only a political solution.”
While US President Barack Obama seems more open to the idea of sending weapons to the Libyans trying to win control from Gadhafi and his regime, Faremo told reporters that she doesn’t think the UN resolution would allow it. “There are many questions about this, and the text of the resolution can be discussed, but I don’t think that’s a fruitful discussion now,” she told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
NATO leader Anders Fogh Rasmussen is also opposed to sending weapons or ground troops into Libya. “We are there to protect civilians, not arm them,” he told reporters.
Norway has sent six fighter jets for use over Libya, and they’ve been involved in several patrol and bombing operations in recent days. Faremo traveled to Crete to meet the pilots and other military personnel, and thank them for taking part in the operation. “I’m very satisfied with how they’ve carried out their orders so far,” she told NRK.
Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre was in London on Tuesday, to meet representatives from other countries participating in the Libyan operation. All agreed that it must continue until Gadhafi and his regime meet the terms of the UN resolution calling for a halt to the violence against civilians. They also agreed that Gadhafi has lost his legitimacy as Libyan leader, and they want him to resign.
They disagreed, however, on who actually makes up the Libyan opposition, whether they should be sent arms and how Gadhafi can be removed from power. Støre said Gadhafi’s future constitutes “one of the most difficult dilemmas” for the international coalition that met in London.
Støre also admitted there was great disappointment that representatives from the African Union failed to attend the meeting, which otherwise was attended by top officials from around 40 countries including the US, several European nations and representatives from the Arab League.