Hague adds to confusion over Libya mission

Nato airstrikes don't target individuals - or do they?
Nato airstrikes don't target individuals - or do they?

By Alex Stevenson

Individuals in Libya could be targeted depending on their behaviour, William Hague has suggested.

His remark in the Commons continues weeks of contradictory statements from Cabinet ministers over whether Muammar Gaddafi should be targeted by Nato airstrikes.

The foreign secretary told MPs that the attack which killed Colonel Gaddafi's youngest son Saif al-Arab in the Bab al-Azizya neighbourhood of Tripoli had targeted a "command and control location".

But he added: "Whether individuals are targeted depends on how they behave and whether they are part of command and control centres."

The comment appears to go against the assurance offered by Nato spokesperson Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard after the airstrike which killed Col Gaddafi's youngest son that "we do not target individuals".

Public statements from senior British government figures on the issue have caused confusion since airstrikes began in March.

Defence secretary Liam Fox said such action was "potentially a possibility".

The head of the armed forces was forced to respond by saying that it "absolutely" was not. David Cameron told MPs that UN security council resolution 1973 was "limited in its scope".

The Foreign Office said it was not prepared to give a running commentary on targeting, but said that a person can be a target if their behaviour is threatening civilians.

It cited the prime minister's comments on the issue in the Commons on March 21st when he said: "The targeting policy of Nato and the alliance is absolutely clear. It is in line with UN resolution 1973 and it is about preventing a loss of civilian life by targeting Gaddafi's war-making machine.

"That is obviously tanks and guns and rocket launchers but also command and control as well.

"It is about targeting command and control rather than particular individuals. The targeting policy has been very closely followed; these things are very carefully put together."

Mr Hague told MPs this afternoon: "We do want Gaddafi to go, let us not be in any doubt about that.

"But the attack was an attack on a command-and-control location. Nato has increased the number of airstrikes against command and control functions of the Libyan regime. That is wholly legitimate in our view. Such attacks will continue."

The prime minister sought to draw a line under question-marks about the government's policy shortly after Mr Hague's comments.

"Let me be clear: all the targets chosen were clearly within the boundaries set by 1970 and 1973," he told MPs.

"These resolutions permit all necessary measures to protect civilian life, including attacks on command and control bases."


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