EU's Libya aid mission could require ground troops, general says
May 3, 2011, 18:42 GMT
Brussels - A military humanitarian aid mission the EU has offered to deploy in Libya could involve ground troops, requiring changes to the UN resolution on international action in the country, a senior military official hinted Tuesday.
'If we are there with military units and the situation deteriorates, that is the only situation where I can see that we need military means,' Swedish General Hakan Syren, the chairman of the EU Military Committee, said when asked about potential ground troops.
'But then we are outside (UN) resolution 1973,' he said.
Pressed further, Syren said he did not want to speculate, noting that a prerequisite UN request has yet to be issued for the EU to deploy such a mission.
'It's not the will to do that,' he said. 'There must be a request for it and/or a change in the resolution ... For the time being, it's kind of a hypothetical question while we don't have the mandate.'
The EU has been planning a mission involving air and naval logistical support for humanitarian aid activities - codenamed EUFOR Libya - but has made its deployment conditional on a request from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
EU officials have warded off questions about a land-based EUFOR Libya presence in the past, noting the UN resolution specifically rules out the presence of an occupying army on the ground.
Syren, who made his comments after a meeting of EU defence chiefs in Brussels, said OCHA has made clear that a military mission would only be used as a last resort. Aid groups have warned separately about mixing military operations and humanitarian work.
He said an operations plan for the mission should be ready next week, to be followed by discussions with member states on what they would be willing to contribute. He declined to comment on how many troops may be involved in such a mission.
A bulk of the international humanitarian assistance for Libya has been flowing into the under-siege western city of Misurata, which has seen pitched battles between leader Moamer Gaddafi's troops and rebels for two months.
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