Sharon Behn | Washington
European Union leaders are preparing a militarily-protected sea corridor to deliver aid to Libya should the situation in the North African country deteriorate to the point where humanitarian aid workers cannot help civilians caught in the crossfire.
The European Union is getting ready to launch a military mission to support humanitarian aid work in Libya even as rebels are warning of what they are calling a "massacre" in the western city of Misrata. A rebel spokesman said at least 23 people were killed in attacks by forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi near the port town Thursday.
The EU-proposed operation would create a safe corridor in the sea up to Misrata as well as on the ground to be able to reach out to those in need. EU officials say the operation would require a formal UN request and fall under the mandate of UN resolutions 1970 and 1973.
But Kristalina Georgieva, the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response says the EU believes if they cannot reach people, if they cannot evacuate the wounded or help those civilians caught in the cross-fire, then there is no option but to provide military support.
"If we have boats that are trying to get with medicines, or to evacuate wounded, not able to reach the port, this is a signal that that protection is necessary, or if on the ground there is such a forceful attack from Gadhafi forces that the actual presence of humanitarian workers -- people with no guns, no way to protect themselves -- becomes problematic, then there may be a need for protection on the ground in the civilian area," she said.
Right now none of these conditions is in place, so the European Union is still in the preparation stages. But Georgieva says the EU has the capacity to deploy right away.
She says the military operation would compliment NATO's airstrikes, which are aimed at stopping Mr. Gadhafi and his forces from killing civilians. But Georgieva insists the conditions have to be right before the EU brings in its military forces.
"We have to be categorically sure this bridge has been crossed," she said.
If deployed, the EU force for Libya would be headed by an Italian, Rear Admiral Claudio Gaudiosi, operating out of Rome.
The EU currently has three ongoing military missions, the most recent being in Somalia, where EU forces are training Somali security forces.