Vindicated? European Leaders On The Tripoli Advance
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Europeans watched with joy and relief as Libyan rebels swept into Tripoli over the weekend, and now try to cement their hold on the capital and the country. France and Britain have been at the forefront of the NATO-led campaign supporting the rebels.
But Eleanor Beardsley reports that as the intervention dragged into its sixth month, military budgets were straining and popular support was fading.
(SOUNDBITE OF FRENCH NEWSCAST)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: France has been following the news from Libya around the clock. France pushed hard for the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the air campaign against Gadhafi's forces, and the French air force was the first to attack his tanks. France was also the first country to officially recognize the rebel-led National Transitional Council.
Critics say Sarkozy supported Libya's rebels to make up for French misreading of the Tunisian revolution. But even so, says Harold Hyman, a foreign policy commentator for the French cable news network BFM, events in Libya are a triumph for the French president.
HAROLD HYMAN: It's a victory for the foreign policy of Nicolas Sarkozy, which was a very adventurous one. He led the charge, quite ahead of the British and the Americans. And if you look at it that way, this is a victory for his audacity at the time.
ALAIN JUPPE: (Foreign language spoken)
BEARDSLEY: French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called on Gadhafi to surrender today, saying there was no way out. Juppe also invited Western officials and Libyan opposition leaders to Paris next week, to discuss the transition and reconstruction of the country.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The Middle East specialist was misidentified. His name is Karim Pakzad.]
The hardest part is yet to come, says Karim Emile Bitar, a Middle East specialist at the Institution of International and Strategic Relations in Paris.
KARIM PAKZAD: (Through translator) We are an unknown territory. No one knows what to expect. Libya will need the West's support because they will be trying to create a future for a country where there are no political institutions or even a constitution. Gadhafi ran everything.
BEARDSLEY: France and Britain have provided the main muscle behind the six-month, NATO-led air campaign against Gadhafi...TEXT: (Soundbite of jet planes)
BEARDSLEY: French pilots in Rafale and Mirage jets have flown about a third of the NATO missions over Libya, taking off from bases like this one, in Corsica. But as the campaign wore on, the European coalition began to fray, and public opinion began to turn against it.
The escalating cost of the Libyan intervention created serious political problems for British Prime Minister David Cameron as well as for Sarkozy, who is preparing for a presidential election in eight months. There were also questions about whether NATO exceeded the legal limits of its U.N. mandate to protect civilians in Libya. Speaking in Brussels today, NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen defended the alliance.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Our goal throughout this conflict has been to protect the people of Libya, and that is what we are doing. The sooner Gadhafi realizes that he cannot win the battle against his own people, the better.
BEARDSLEY: Addressing the press outside 10 Downing Street, David Cameron talked about Britain's honorable contribution to the NATO mission.
Prime Minister DAVID CAMERON: This has not been our revolution, but we can be proud that we have played our part. Today, the Arab Spring is a step further away from oppression and dictatorship, and the Libyan people are closer to their dream of a better future free from the terror of Gadhafi.
BEARDSLEY: Both Britain and France sent military advisers to assist and train the anti-Gadhafi forces, and Paris acknowledged that it had even supplied them with arms. Both governments are hoping to get some of the credit for that strategy as the formerly rag-tag rebel army storms its way into Tripoli.
For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
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Correction Aug. 23, 2011
We incorrectly identified a Middle East expert as Karim Emile Bitar. He is Karim Pakzad.