By His Own Reckoning, One Man Made Libya a French Cause (2)

Published: April 1, 2011

According to Mr. Lévy, Mr. Sarkozy said he would work on getting international support and a United Nations Security Councilresolution, but if he failed, he and Mr. Cameron might go ahead anyway with the mandate of the European Union, the Arab Leagueand the African Union. Mr. Sarkozy swore them to secrecy on this “Plan B,” but told them to speak of everything else as they liked, Mr. Lévy said. He said Mr. Sarkozy told them, “My resolution is total.”

Convincing Washington was crucial. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was coming to Paris for aGroup of 8 foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday, March 14, and wanted to meet Mr. Jibril. The Qatar Embassy facilitated his travel from Doha, Mr. Lévy said, and he went to Bourget airport to pick him up for a scheduled 4 p.m. meeting with Mrs. Clinton. But the Élysée had not been informed, and Mr. Jibril was held for two hours, until 5 p.m., before he was allowed into France. The meeting was rescheduled for 10 p.m. at Mrs. Clinton’s hotel after a Group of 8 dinner at the Élysée.
Mr. Lévy brought Mr. Jibril, who was staying with him, to the hotel, spent a few minutes with him and Mrs. Clinton, then left the room as the two spoke for nearly an hour. Afterward, Mr. Jibril was disconsolate, believing that he had failed to sway Mrs. Clinton. He insisted on leaving the hotel through a back entrance, to avoid waiting journalists.
At Mr. Lévy’s apartment he, Mr. Hertzog and Mr. Lévy, all of them depressed, stayed up until 2 a.m. on March 15 writing an appeal to the world, what Mr. Lévy called “our last card.” But they did not issue it, and at 3 p.m., Mr. Sarkozy called Mr. Lévy to say that “the American position is shifting.”
Mr. Sarkozy then hit the phones, Mr. Juppé flew to New York and by the time of the Security Council vote, on Thursday, March 17, Washington voted along with France and Britain for a resolution authorizing the use of force in Libya to protect the civilian population, while Russia and China abstained. That night, Mr. Sarkozy called Mr. Lévy to tell him, “We’ve won.”
On Saturday, March 19, as Mr. Sarkozy hosted a luncheon summit on Libya, the opposition called frantically for help. Qaddafi forces had reached the suburbs of Benghazi. That afternoon, France began the bombing, to general political applause at home, even from the Socialists. Mr. Lévy feels that he has helped to save lives and that Mr. Sarkozy has done the right thing, leading a diplomatic effort to intervene to save the entire “Arab spring” and “all the hopes it has raised.”
He claims to be indifferent to those who mock him. “What happened is more important than all the criticism,” Mr. Levy said. “We avoided a bloodbath in Benghazi.”

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