Clinton embarks on Libya dominated tour
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to arrive in Paris later today for a round of diplomacy focusing on the Libyan uprising and the new governments in Tunisia and Egypt. She will meet with a Libyan opposition pleading for foreign military intervention to repel a counter offensive by troops loyal to Moamer Kadhafi.
French officials are also expected to urge the US Secretary of State to "speed up" multilateral efforts for a no-fly zone over Libya aimed at grounding Kadhafi's air power.
She will also be joined by her counterparts from Russia, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan as part of a G8 meeting to debate other ways to help the opposition in Libya.
Calls for a no-fly zone gained momentum after the Arab League supported the idea at crisis talks in Cairo on Saturday.
Her tour comes after Kadhafi's forces recaptured several rebel-controlled towns, fueling fears his regime will crush the uprising despite US and international calls for the Libyan leader to go.
Abdel Rahman Shalgam, Libya's ambassador to the United Nations who has joined Kadhafi opponents, said in Washington that Clinton would meet in Paris with Mahmoud Jibril, from the opposition National Council.
Clinton is reported to have met on Thursday in Washington, Ali Aujali, the Libyan ambassador to the United States who has also defected to the opposition.
The United States has agreed to name a special envoy to deal with the opposition, but is still to recognise any particular leader or group in spite of France recognising the National Council as the rightful representative of the opposition. The Arab League followed suit on Saturday at a meeting in Cairo.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for targeted strikes if Kadhafi bombs his people, in contrast to the more cautious stance of President Barack Obama's administration, which has repeatedly warned of intervention risks.
France has also joined Britain in drafting a UN Security Council resolution to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, where US and Nato warplanes would ground Kadhafi's airpower in order to protect civilians and the opposition.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a statement on Sunday that France was pushing to "speed up" multilateral efforts for a no-fly zone.
But UN Security Council permanent members Russia and China have reservations about the draft resolution. Germany and Italy, which are not permanent members, have also taken a cautious line on any intervention.
Washington welcomed the Arab League call for a no-fly zone, but is not yet supporting the policy.
Clinton has said a no-fly zone plan will be presented to Nato on Tuesday. Washington has already said it would soon send humanitarian aid teams to rebel-held areas of eastern Libya, but cautioned that the move should not be seen as military intervention.
Clinton is scheduled to visit Cairo and Tunis later in the week where she will become the highest-level US official to visit since their presidents were toppled in mass pro-democracy protests.
"We have an enormous stake in ensuring that Egypt and Tunisia provide models for the kind of democracy that we want to see," Clinton told lawmakers last week as she warned about Iran's bid for influence in the region.
During her Tuesday to Thursday trip to Cairo and Tunis, Clinton plans to meet the Egyptian and Tunisian people as well as their transitional leaders.
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