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Brazil Opposed to Military Options in Libya Crisis


By Fabiana Frayssinet

RIO DE JANEIRO, Mar 2011 (IPS) – Brazil, firmly opposed to a militarisation of the crisis in Libya and in favour of negotiated solutions without foreign intervention, is heading to a Mar. 7-8 ministerial meeting with India and South Africa.

At next week’s altBrazil Foreign Minister Antonio Aguiar Patriotameeting in New Delhi, being held by the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue Forum, the foreign ministers of the three countries — which also currently hold non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council — will discuss the wave of popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East and the threat of military intervention in Libya.

A spokesman for Brazil’s Foreign Ministry summed up the central points of the Brazilian government’s position for IPS: “The need to avoid militarising and exacerbating the situation, and the desire to find a negotiated, calm solution without foreign intervention.”

On Friday, Foreign Minister Antonio Aguiar Patriota said “Brazil believes the debate on the proposal of establishing a no-fly zone over Libya, or on any military initiative in that country, can only be legitimate in a framework of strict respect for the U.N. Charter, within the Security Council.”

In a statement read out at a press conference in Beijing, where he was concluding an official visit to China, Patriota added that his country would “favour diplomacy, dialogue and negotiation in the attempt to straighten out the situation, in which there is a risk of an escalation of violence.”

The Latin American giant’s is the first major voice of dissent against announcements by the United States — that have the support of key European Union countries and the Arab League — that if Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi insists on staying in power, several options for military intervention are on the table.

These include the creation of a no-fly zone or even a military invasion, if the situation in Libya devolves into humanitarian chaos, U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday. “Step down from power and leave,” he declared to Gaddafi.

The Brazilian government made its voice heard after Gaddafi mentioned the possibility of accepting an international mission in his country, to verify the humanitarian situation there, as Brazil’s ambassador in Tripoli, George Ney de Souza Fernandes, told the media.

According to reports by journalists and the opposition, thousands of people have been killed as pro-Gaddafi forces have cracked down on the uprising.

The international commission of inquiry would specifically include Brazil, the African Union and the Islamic Conference, although the sources at Brazil’s Foreign Ministry said they had received no official invitation.

In the meantime, a meeting of foreign ministers of the countries grouped in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) was held Friday in Caracas to discuss Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s proposal to create an international peace commission to send to Libya.

After speaking on the phone with the Libyan leader, Chávez said the initiative has Gaddafi’s support.

However, one of Gaddafi’s sons had previously ruled out the possibility, as have countries like the United States, France and Italy.

Williams Gonçalves, an expert in international relations at the Rio de Janeiro State University, told IPS that the best thing Brazil can do is “act coherently with this country’s traditional posture, and with its larger objective of contributing to the democratisation of international relations.”

And above all, it should “defend a negotiated solution, and, fundamentally, make use of its presence in international bodies to take a stance in favour of the self-determination of peoples — in other words, against military interventions,” he added.

But Gonçalves was not optimistic with regard to the degree to which a group like IBSA could help curb the violence in Libya.

The objectives of the IBSA Dialogue Forum include intensifying coordination on global issues and building consensus on issues of international importance. Created in 2003, it brings together emerging powers from three different continents, all of which are democracies with multicultural and multiracial societies.

“The political crisis in Libya is very advanced,” said Gonçalves. “The U.S. has decided to intervene in the process because it fears the collapse of Libya’s oil production and a shake-up of the oil market.”

He added that although the new government of President Dilma Rousseff has continued to follow the foreign policy lines of her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-January 2011), “we are seeing a readjustment of the way these guidelines are put into practice.

“That is why Brazilian diplomacy should not be expected to take any step that runs counter to the consensus that the U.S. and Europeans have reached on the need to cut short the crisis by means of the swift toppling of Gaddafi,” he said.

Gonçalves said, however, that the events in the Arab world could help generate a more active, effective role for the emerging powers in decision-making, which is currently restricted to spheres like Washington, the U.N. Security Council and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

“I believe the Arab world welcomes any initiative by the large developing countries to contribute to pacification and to the perfecting of their political institutions,” he said.

The academic said the fact that countries like Brazil, India and South Africa “do not have a history of colonialism or colonialist objectives” is a good start. On the contrary, he pointed out, “they fought the European metropolises to win independence, and are still fighting against injustices in the international order.”

Their past as colonies makes the IBSA countries “much more sensitive to the political problems of the Arab nations,” and means they are “principally interested in an international order where there is no place for foreign interventions.”

At a previous meeting in New York, on Feb. 11, the IBSA foreign ministers stressed the need for urgent reform and expansion of the Security Council, of both permanent and non-permanent members, to increase the participation of the countries of the developing South.

Brazil’s Foreign Ministry is pushing for a permanent seat for Brazil on the Security Council, as is India and, more timidly, South Africa.

The three countries have a total combined population of about 1.4 billion people and a combined GDP of more than 3.2 trillion dollars.

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