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Libya: Bombing: International Reaction

Volume 476: debated on Friday 13 June 1986

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11.20 a.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many governments share the Anglo-American view that the American raid on Tripoli and Benghazi was justified in international law and how many consider that it was not justified.

My Lords, we do not have figures for the number of governments who hold this view, but it is clear that there was widespread understanding of the United States action.

My Lords, will the noble Baroness agree that there was a much more widespread understanding to the contrary? Is she aware that the Security Council was only prevented from condemning the American action by the use of the veto? Is she further aware that the third world countries meeting in Delhi unanimously agreed to condemn the American action? In those circumstances are the Government not in a minority position on this issue and will they look at it again?

My Lords, I believe that there is widespread condemnation of terrorism and agreement that it needs to be combated. Reactions have varied but, as I have said, they have demonstrated considerable understanding of why we supported the action taken by the United States against Libyan state-directed terrorism.

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that there is considerable evidence that the American action has caused certain governments to think twice about supporting international terrorism, and that there is further evidence that the terrorists themselves have been deprived of some of the support that they have enjoyed over recent years? Should we not take that into consideration when looking at the weighty deliberations of the Security Council and the third world conference?

My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord's remarks about this very positive aspect of the action taken by the United States in this case.

My Lords, would the Minister accept that there is indeed a need to condemn terrorism of all kinds, including Libyan terrorism? Has she noted the widespread and authoritative view that the action which was taken was not justified under the principles of self-defence in international law, and that this was the authoritative and powerful view put forward by my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, in our debate on the 18th April? Would the noble Baroness agree that the danger of seeking wrongfully to use that sort of justification is that it opens the door to abuse by countries that are not so scrupulous in their actions as is ours?

My Lords, we are aware that not all countries, nor indeed all individuals, agree and that there are differences of opinion and interpretation. However, it remains our view that the action was in accordance with the inherent right of self-defence that is recognised under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

My Lords, would the noble Baroness agree that perhaps cutting Colonel Gaddafi's cash surplus might be the most effective way of combating terrorism?

My Lords, together with our European Community partners we have taken a number of steps to combat the situation. I believe that the cutting of cash may well be involved and be helpful in this respect.