published Friday, March 4th, 2011

Area senators’ viewpoints split on no-fly zone in Libya crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senators from Georgia and Tennessee are split over colleagues’ calls for the United States to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Col. Moammar Gadhafi from bombing his own people.

“The United States doesn’t need to be a lone wolf out there from a military perspective or from a perspective of trying to inject ourselves into the affairs of Libya,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

But Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said a no-fly zone across the vast African country is warranted.

“It’s not premature. It’s something we should seriously consider,” he said. It’s “something we could do as a country to help encourage the spread of democracy in the Middle East without the excessive interference with the internal affairs of a country.”

Earlier this week, the entire Senate supported a resolution calling on the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, but some senators want the United States to take the lead.

On Feb. 26, the U.N. unanimously approved a series of sanctions against the Libyan government, including imposing an arms embargo as well as banning travel for senior officials and freezing their assets.

“This is one time that it seems like everybody does agree that what’s going on within Libya is not good and whether it’s [a] human rights standpoint or a pure governance standpoint, it’s an opportunity for that body [the U.N.] to exercise itself,” Chambliss said.

Sen. Bob Corker, R.-Tenn., said he won’t instantly dismiss the idea of a no-fly zone, but he wants more discussion.

“Our military leadership has raised questions about the implications,” Corker said in a statement.

In testimony before Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton implied that the United States is not close to imposing a no-fly zone on its own in spite of calls from senior senators.

Her work on behalf of the Libyan rebels garnered praise from Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who said he trusts her judgment.

“Secretary Clinton has been a rock star as far as I’m concerned, as far as what is going on in Africa,” he said.

The rebel uprising in Libya “has the potential to be the tipping point” for the democratic movement spreading across the Middle East, Isakson said.

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