The Libyan government declared a cease-fire Friday in its battle against rebels seeking to oust longtime leader Moammar Gaddafi, saying it was acting to protect civilians in the wake of a U.N. Security Council resolution that opened the door to military action.
“We decided on an immediate cease-fire and on an immediate stop to all military operations,” Libyan foreign Minister Musa Kusa told reporters in the capital. He said Libya “takes great interest in protecting all civilians and protecting human rights,” adding that the government would also protect foreigners and foreign assets in the country.
Libya “accepts that it is obliged to accept the U.N. resolution,” Kusa said in explaining the decision to declare a cease-fire.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who was preparing a set of demands with President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said he would judge Qaddafi by his actions and not his words.
The Libyan bid “is game-playing and it would be folly for the West to fall for it,” Barak Seener, Middle East research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said in a telephone interview. “It’s a stalling tactic and he’s attempting to create fissures within the international community
Qaddafi is still trying to create facts on the ground, by shelling the city of Misrata even after the cease-fire announcement.
The cease-fire announcement “is a smart tactical move to change the question from helping the rebels to that of regime change,” said Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Brussels and a former analyst at the NATO Defense College in Rome and the German Defense Ministry.
“Qaddafi’s testing the determination of the West to see if Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron really mean what they say when they demand his removal,” Techau said in a telephone interview.
So it may turn out that strong threat of serious action from France, UK and the UN was enough in this case and Gaddafi calculated that he had pushed the rebels to a weak enough position to accept a freeze at this point.