Muammar Gaddafi’s government said on Friday it was declaring a unilateral ceasefire in its offensive to crush Libya’s revolt hours after the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorising military action. Five member countries including India abstained.
Western countries were cautious in their reaction to the offer. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Libya’s offer was encouraging. “We have to be very cautious. He is now starting to be afraid, but on the ground the threat has not changed,” a French spokesman said. Britain said it would judge Gaddafi by “actions, not his words”.Government troops, however, pounded the rebel-held western city of Misrata in the day, killing at least 25 people including children, a doctor told Reuters. Residents said there was no sign of a ceasefire.
In the rebel-controlled east, the government declaration was dismissed as a ruse or a sign Gaddafi was desperate.
Nato said the alliance was completing plans so that it could take "appropriate action" on Libya, if it were to get the go-ahead to act. The European Union agreed in principle to new sanctions, targeting both individuals and economic entities.
Late Thursday, the Security Council had imposed a no-fly zone over Libya with immediate effect, besides authorising strikes on air defence systems.
The resolution came within hours of Gaddafi threatening a no-holds-barred attack on the rebel-held city of Benghazi. "We are coming and there will be no mercy," he said in a national broadcast. As no-fly zone was being talked, Gaddafi on Sunday met envoys of India, China and Russia. He offered investments in oil sector and preferential treatment to New Delhi once the situation stabilised.
There was no relation between the envoy meeting Gaddafi and India abstaining from the vote, officials insisted.
The UN resolution bans all flights in Libyan airspace to help protect civilians. The resolution also authorises the UN member states to take "all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory" India had its reservations and abstained from the vote with four other countries - Brazil, Russia, China (the Bric group), and Germany.
It listed three reasons for abstaining. The council could have waited for a report from the representative appointed by the secretary general on the ground situation. The resolution didn't say who would enforce the ban and how. The financial restrictions were indiscriminately crippling and could affect adversely the lives of common people, it said.
(With agency inputs)