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UK opposition: Libya chaos led to migrant drownings

Labour leader Ed Miliband says David Cameron 'was wrong' to assume Libya 'could be left to evolve and transform on their own'.

24.04.2015
UK opposition: Libya chaos led to migrant drownings

ANKARA 

The leader of Britain’s main opposition party has linked Prime Minister David Cameron’s lack of post-war planning in Libya with the recent wave of migrant drownings in the Mediterranean.

A press briefing released on Friday before center-left Labour leader Ed Miliband made a speech said: “He will say the refugee crisis and tragic scenes this week in the Mediterranean are in part a direct result of the failure of post-conflict planning for Libya.”

Downing Street called the allegations “shameful and absolutely unacceptable”.

Speaking at the British international affairs think-tank Chatham House, Miliband said the international community had let Libya down.

He said: "In Libya, Labour supported military action to avoid the slaughter Gaddafi threatened in Benghazi."

"But since the action, the failure of post-conflict planning has become obvious."

Chaos and war

Following Gaddafi’s fall from power and subsequent execution, the country has since descended into chaos and civil war.

In the ensuing power vacuum many African refugees have made their way through Libya and across the Mediterranean Sea in a bid to reach Europe.

About 800 migrants died last Sunday when their boat sank on the perilous journey.

Miliband said: "David Cameron was wrong to assume that Libya’s political culture and institutions could be left to evolve and transform on their own." 

"The tragedy is that this could have been anticipated. It should have been avoided."

"And Britain could have played its part in ensuring the international community stood by the people of Libya in practice, rather than standing behind the unfounded hopes of potential progress only in principle," he added.

The comments caused a stir, with some critics accusing Miliband of suggesting Cameron had "blood on his hands".

 'Absolutely offensive'

Conservative Environment Secretary Liz Truss told BBC News that Miliband should withdraw his remarks.

"It's absolutely offensive that Ed Miliband should be suggesting that David Cameron is directly responsible for those deaths, which is what he appears to be suggesting,” she said.

Former Conservative Foreign Secretary William Hague said Miliband’s remarks were “ill-judged and opportunistic” as Labour had not set out a different policy towards Libya and the Arab world over the past five years.

“Foreign policy is not something that you can just discover 13 days before polling day. This is the first time in five years that Ed Miliband has troubled himself to make a full-length speech on foreign policy,” he said.

Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander defended his party leader’s remarks, telling BBC Radio 4: “I don’t think anyone disputes that we are witnessing a situation where Libya is perilously close to becoming a completely failed state on the southern shores of the Mediterranean."

"That is not a matter of dispute; that is simply a matter of fact.”

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