French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said today his country was working with Britain to get a United Nations Security Council resolution to impose a no-fly zone in Libya.

"We are working in New York with the British to get a UN Security Council resolution creating an air exclusion zone to avoid bombings," he said in Bordeaux.

"We are watching very carefully" the situation in Libya and "this morning I spoke by telephone with minister Younes" Abdel Fatah, Libya's former interior minister until he resigned who is now in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

"We are on the side of all those who want to win their freedom and make a successful democratic transition," Juppe said shortly before leaving for Egypt and his first official visit outside Europe since being appointed.

Tomorrow, he is due to meet in Cairo the secretary general of the Arab League Amr Moussa.

On Thursday, Juppe and British Foreign Secretary William Hague said they were preparing measures to propose to the European Union summit on Libya set for next Friday, specifically mentioning a possible no-fly zone.

The uprisings in the Arab world have proved testing for France. Its diplomats have been accused of having failed to see them coming and ministers of having had links with despotic and corrupt leaders.

Since he replaced Michele Alliot-Marie as foreign minister on Tuesday Juppe has made "refounding" President Nicolas Sarkozy's Union for the Mediterranean a priority.

This has been made essential by the upheavals in progress and the departure of Egyptian former president Hosni Moubarak, Sarkozy's chief partner in the scheme.

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