21 MAR 2011
By Don Melvin | CP
BRUSSELS — The European Union's top foreign policy official brushed aside concerns Monday that the coalition supporting military action against Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi is already starting to fracture, saying the head of the Arab League was misquoted as criticizing the operation.
NATO, meanwhile, was struggling with its own internal divisions, having been blocked so far by member Turkey from participating in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya.
Support from the Arab League had been critical to international action against Gadhafi's regime. But on Sunday, hours after the international operation began, the league's chief was quoted as telling reporters in Cairo that it should not have included attacks on targets on the ground.
"What happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives," Amr Moussa was said. "What we want is civilians' protection not shelling more civilians."
But EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Monday there had been a misunderstanding. She spoke on her way into a meeting of EU foreign ministers at which Libya will be discussed.
"Moussa was misquoted, as I understand it," she said. She did not specify her understanding of what Moussa actually said.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, however, offered Moussa's comments as evidence that Germany's decision not to participate in the operation had been justified.
"This does not mean that we are neutral," Westerwelle said on his way into the same meeting. "This does not mean that we have any sympathy with the dictator Gadhafi. It means that we see the risks, and when we listen closely to what the Arab League yesterday said, unfortunately we see that we had reasons for our concerns."
Westerwelle said Germany would focus on broadening economic and financial sanctions against the Gadhafi regime.
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Arab League criticizes Western strikes on Libya