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The New Arab

UK 'could have done more' to prevent Libya disaster

Tobias Ellwood said the UK had a 'duty of care' in Libya in 2011 [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 May, 2017

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The UK's Foreign Office minister concedes that Britain could have done better to ensure stability in the aftermath of Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow in 2011.


A UK Foreign Office minister on Monday admitted that the UK "could have done more" prevent Libya's descent into chaos after the  Western intervention in 2011.

Speaking at a Royal United Services Institute [RUSI] event in London, Tobias Ellwood defended the UK's airstrikes in Libya in 2011, saying there was a "duty to protect" civilians during the country's uprising against Gaddafi.

"I really do believe that not knowing the full outcome of events is not reason for inaction,"  Ellwood said.

"But we didn't do it to try and transform Libya and do something else," he added, emphasising the presence of the "criminal" and "terrorist" Gaddafi.

"It was 40 years of misrule in a very complex society with huge tribal constructs across there. After 40 years all these tribes found they had a bit of space - a bit of elbow room - and yes perhaps we could have done more but we were asked to leave, the international community was asked to take a step back from its involvement."

The Foreign Office minister's remarks followed renewed criticism over Britain's role in Libya in 2011, particularly from the UK's opposition led by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In the aftermath of the recent suicide bomb attack in Manchester which killed 22 people, Corbyn contended that UK foreign policy could be providing further pretext for terror attacks in the UK.

The Manchester bomber Salman Abedi had himself fought in Libya and was the child of refugees from the North African country.

Sharing the apnel with Ellwood on Tuesday was Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, who reiterated Corbyn's criticisms of British intervention in Libya.

Thornberry said the "failure of Libya" led to large swathes of the country falling into militant hands and "directly leads to us being less safe".

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