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Sarkozy (on Libya): “the whole mandate, nothing but the mandate, only the mandate”

Sarkozy, at the European Council, surrounded (credit: Council of the EU)

(BRUSSELS2, European Council) President Sarkozy's press conference, in the middle of a European summit, is not systematic (unlike that at the end of the summit). It comes at a key moment in the negotiation. And the subject is often fascinating. Because it gives context and volume to certain statements but above all reveals a state of mind, an atmosphere. This evening, after midnight, a good part of the intervention, and the journalists' questions, focused on Libya and the Arab world. Chosen words…

The military is doing a great job

“We are taking our time to only have (target) military objectives. But we have difficulty knowing exactly (what is happening). We have contacts with the national transition council, we cross-reference information, we try to ensure that the strikes are as precise as possible. We are asked at many places in the territories. We are redirecting planes towards threatened cities to loosen the grip on threatened populations.

“We feel that the grip is loosening. But you have to see that it's been less than a week since we started. We have already avoided thousands of deaths. The French soldiers – the English, the Americans, the Canadians… – are doing a wonderful job, an excessively dangerous and necessary job. Why the opposition is not moving forward. There is a problem with the organization of the opposition. But also means to confront Gaddafi. »

(NB: a high-ranking French diplomat later admitted to us that yes “arming the rebellion is a good question. We need to think about it”).

The aim of the operations is not a change of regime

Sarkozy repeated it in every tone. “That’s not what we’re here for. We are to protect those who are victims of a massacre, to avoid new victims of the barbaric madness of a dictator. Afterwards the Libyans will do what they want with Gaddafi and his minions. It's not our problem, it's their problem. It is not up to us to declare what the future regime of Libya will be. »

The whole warrant, nothing but the warrant, only the warrant.

“Our mandate, and our only one, is that of the United Nations resolution. We will not go beyond our mandate. We are very determined to implement resolution 1973 but not to go beyond it. This is all a balance. We have no right to overstep international legality. But we have no right to leave until our duty is completed.

“If we do less we are not living up to our historic responsibilities. And if we do more, (also), because the coalition could rightly be denounced as going beyond its mandate. The whole mandate, just the mandate, only the mandate. (…) The duration of the operation will be linked to the vulnerability of the populations. »

Ground troops, no

" No. The resolution excludes it. Deploying ground troops is not provided for and formally excluded by the resolution. »

Cutting oil revenues is yes

“We call on all countries in the world to no longer pay for Libyan oil, which is used to pay mercenaries. You have to be consistent, cut him off from the possibilities of financing because we know what he does with this money. »

A historic moment, a geopolitical turning point: relations with Arab countries

“This is a historic moment. (…) For France, what is at stake are relations with Arab countries for the decades to come. It is not often that we have the opportunity to create a bridge between Europe and the Arab world. (…) What is also at stake is a political Europe, with military means, in the service of a political ambition, and its relations with the Arab world. »

“There is a need (therefore) for great rigor (on the application of the resolution). Because what is happening in Libya creates jurisprudence and can also create trust with Arab countries. This is of extreme importance for the political future of Europe and relations between Europe and Arab countries. This is a major turning point in the foreign policy of France, Europe and the world. »

Faced with a demonstration in a democracy, there is no army

Regarding a question on Syria, the French president responds. “It is the right to demonstrate and propose, every leader – and in particular Arab leaders – must understand the French and European reaction. We will always be on the side of the population who demonstrate without violence. In any democracy there can be demonstrations, sometimes with violence. But we cannot tolerate the army being mobilized and firing live ammunition. This is the French position. She won't change. »

Later, he takes up and redevelops the formula: "The Arab street has been held up so much as a threat—probably not justified—that when the Arab street goes down to demand democracy, we cannot, not be on the side of the Arab people. »

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).