Libya declares ceasefire

Foreign minister says an immediate ceasefire will be imposed after UN backs no-fly zone.

The Libyan foreign minister, Mousa Kousa, has told reporters that Libya will impose "an immediate ceasefire and stoppage of all military operations" against rebel forces.

Speaking to reporters in Tripoli, he said that the country will abide by yesterday's UN Security Council resolution calling for a no-fly zone and a ceasefire.

Kousa was critical of the "unreasonable" UN resolution, which allows the use of military power. "This goes clearly against the UN Charter, and it is a violation of the national sovereignty of Libya," he said.

He said Libya would "try to deal positively" with the resolution, and that a no-fly zone would "increase the suffering of Libyan people and will have negative impact on the general life of the Libyan people", as it will affect civilian as well as military flights.

This professed concern for civilians is a significant change in rhetoric from the Libyan regime. Just last night, Muammar al-Gaddafi warned that "no mercy" would be shown to the people of Benghazi.

It is far too early to tell how long a ceasefire will last, and whether this is a genuine laying down of arms or merely a strategic move to buy time. Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Libya, told Sky News: "I think he has taken a step that no one foresaw. It is very difficult to read Gaddafi's mind but I think he sees this as a way of holding back the military attack."

The next important thing to watch is the terms of the ceasefire and how it will be monitored: it is highly unlikely that the regime will allow rebel groups in Benghazi to continue with impunity, ceasefire or not. Will the UN be allowed into Libya for monitoring purposes? It's worth noting that Kousa refused to answer any questions after his announcement.

If it comes to it, it will not be difficult for Gaddafi to ramp up the violence again.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

Arsène Wenger. Credit: Getty
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My biggest regret of the Wenger era? How we, the fans, treated him at the end

Arsenal’s greatest coach deserved better treatment from the Club’s supporters. 

I have no coherent memories of Arsenal before Arsène Wenger, who will leave the Club at the end of the season. I am aware of the Club having a new manager, but my continuous memories of my team are of Wenger at the helm.

They were good years to remember: three league titles, seven FA Cups, the most of any single manager in English football. He leaves the Club as the most successful manager in its history.

I think one of the reasons why in recent years he has taken a pasting from Arsenal fans is that the world before him now seems unimaginable, and not just for those of us who can't really remember it. As he himself once said, it is hard to go back to sausages when you are used to caviar, and while the last few years cannot be seen as below par as far as the great sweep of Arsenal’s history goes, they were below par by the standards he himself had set. Not quite sausages, but not caviar either.

There was the period of financial restraint from 2005 onwards, in which the struggle to repay the cost of a new stadium meant missing out on top player. A team that combined promising young talent with the simply bang-average went nine years without a trophy. Those years had plenty of excitement: a 2-1 victory over Manchester United with late, late goals from Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry, a delicious 5-2 thumping of Tottenham Hotspur, and races for the Champions League that went to the last day. It was a time that seemed to hold the promise a second great age of Wenger once the debt was cleared. But instead of a return to the league triumphs of the past, Wenger’s second spree of trophy-winning was confined to the FA Cup. The club went from always being challenging for the league, to always finishing in the Champions League places, to struggling to finish in the top six. Again, nothing to be sniffed at, but short of his earlier triumphs.

If, as feels likely, Arsenal’s dire away form means the hunt for a Uefa Cup victory ends at Atletico Madrid, many will feel that Wenger missed a trick in not stepping down after his FA Cup triumph over Chelsea last year, in one of the most thrilling FA Cup Finals in years. (I particularly enjoyed this one as I watched it with my best man, a Chelsea fan.) 

No one could claim that this season was a good one, but the saddest thing for me was not the turgid performances away from home nor the limp exit from the FA Cup, nor even finishing below Tottenham again. It was hearing Arsenal fans, in the world-class stadium that Wenger built for us, booing and criticising him.

And I think, that, when we look back on Wenger’s transformation both of Arsenal and of English football in general, more than whether he should have called it a day a little earlier, we will wonder how Arsenal fans could have forgotten the achievements of a man who did so much for us.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.