A debate in the French Parliament is underway Tuesday afternoon on whether to pursue France’s participation in NATO operations in Libya, four months after the first airstrikes against forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
French lawmakers are due to vote Tuesday afternoon on whether to authorise a continuation of France’s participation in NATO operations in Libya, four months after the first airstrikes were ordered.
Debate kicked off in the National Assembly, France’s lower house, at around 3pm Paris Time (GMT+2) and is expected to move on to the Senate by early evening.
The parliamentary debate is required by a 2008 reform that stipulates that any military operation ordered by the French presidency must be evaluated and voted on by Parliament four months later.
Parliament is expected to authorise the continuation of French military participation in Libya, with both Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP party and opposition Socialists widely viewing the effort against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces as legitimate.
Socialists are nonetheless expected to be “very critical about certain aspects” of the operation, such as the coordination with NATO allies. Both right- and left-wing parties are expected to demand clarification as to a foreseeable exit strategy for the operation in Libya.
Communist officials are expected to vote against a continuation of French participation. Ahead of the vote, Communist Party spokesman Roland Muzeau told FRANCE 24: “Diplomacy is always preferable to war without end.”
Prime Minister François Fillon opened the debate by reminding members of the National Assembly that Gaddafi had promised “rivers of blood” in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. He also noted that “since the start of the mission on March 19, the military situation has been constantly improving”.
Much of the debate is expected to revolve around the cost of the operation, especially in the wake of France’s decision to send combat helicopters in late May and weapons to Libyan rebels in early June.