Decision To Expel Libyan Diplomats Leads Some To Question Aims Of Campaign
Reaction has been mixed to Foreign Secretary William Hague's decision to expel all remaining Libyan diplomats from the UK and to recognise the National Transitional Council (NTC) as the sole governmental authority in the country.
For while Hague promised the Libyan people that he would support them for "as long as it takes", some questioned whether the decision signaled that regime change, and not the protection of civilians, was now the focus of the campaign.
The shadow foreign minister, Stephen Twigg, welcomed the decision to recognise the NTC:
"The National Transitional Council has shown it is the body most able to represent the people of Libya and it is right it is acknowledged as such and that Gaddafi's diplomats be expelled from the UK. The important thing now is clarity about post-conflict planning and working urgently for a political settlement."
The rebel council's UK coordinator, Guma El-Gamaty, hailed Hague's decision as a "great move" and "a very significant step". The leader of the NTC, Mustafa Abdul Halil, said that this announcement meant that Gaddafi and his followers "are now the dissidents who defected from lawful authority".
Not all British MPs are happy with the expulsion of Libya's diplomats, however.
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn suggested that the latest move may signal an escalation of the Nato operation, and said it was losing focus on protecting civilians from Gaddafi. He said on Twitter that:
"government recognition of NTC in Libya suggests it was and is a war for regime change - latest moves suggest deper civil war."
Other UK-based political commentators have cast doubt over the significance of the removal of Libyan diplomats.
Writing on his blog, Channel 4's political editor Gary Gibbon highlighted the fact that the NTC is still without legal recognition. "So it doesn't open the door for Britain to hand over the hundreds of millions of pounds worth of assets the Gaddafi regime has in this country to the NTC – though that has been the ardent wish of the Government for some time." Gibbon also warned that if money given from the UK to the NTC was spent on weapons it could put the UK in breach of UN resolutions.
Meanwhile, around 50 protesters are currently outside the Libyan embassy in London waiting for Gaddafi's diplomats to leave. "It is not an angry crowd, there's quite a celebratory mood," according to Guardian reporter Peter Walker. Scores of protesters have been gathering outside the Libyan embassy in London since the movement against Gaddafi began in February.