Remy de la Mauviniere, Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS — Supporters of a no-fly zone over Libya called for a Security Council vote Thursday on a U.N. resolution aimed at preventing Moammar Gadhafi's planes from conducting aerial attacks on the Libyan people, but the United States was pushing for broader action to protect civilians from land and sea attacks as well.
Britain and France finished an initial draft resolution that would impose a no-fly zone late Wednesday. France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said the text was being sent to capitals overnight and could still be changed before being put to a vote in the 15-member council.
With Gadhafi's forces intensifying attacks and heading toward rebel-held Bengazi, Libya's second-largest city, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the reporters the Obama administration is "fully focused on the urgency and the gravity of the situation on the ground."
According to a council diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private, Rice said the goal should be expanded from creating a no-fly zone to protecting civilians, meaning the international community must have all the tools it needs including authorization to use planes, troops or ships to stop attacks by Gadhafi's air, land and sea forces.
According to the diplomat, Rice said the U.S. will not act without Security Council authorization, does not want to put U.S. ground troops into Libya, and insists on broad international participation, especially by Arab states.
"We are interested in a broad range of actions that will effectively protect civilians and increase the pressure on the Gadhafi regime to halt the killing and to allow the Libyan people to express themselves in their aspirations for the future freely and peacefully," Rice told reporters after the meeting. "Those include discussion of a no-fly zone, but the U.S. view is that ... a no-fly zone has inherent limitations in terms of protection of civilians at immediate risk."
The initial draft resolution would establish a ban on all flights in Libyan airspace and authorize U.N. member states "to take all necessary measures" to protect civilians. But an amendment proposed by the United States and obtained by The Associated Press would authorize states "to protect civilians and civilian objects from the Gadhafi regime, including by halting attacks by air, land and sea forces under the control of the Gadhafi regime."
During more than eight hours of closed-door discussions by council ambassadors on Wednesday, the diplomat said Rice told members that the United States is very concerned that Gadhafi's forces are on a rapid march to Benghazi and wants the amendment because a no-fly zone isn't enough to protect civilians from probable atrocities.
It was unclear if the amendment the U.S. was calling for would remain in the text that was eventually put to a vote.
The diplomat said Russia, which has veto power, raised serious questions about the use of force against Gadhafi and other council nations reacted cautiously.
Lebanon, France and Britain introduced the draft resolution Tuesday afternoon, spurred by the Arab League's urgent call for a no-fly zone.
Rice told reporters the U.S. is "working very hard" toward having a vote on Thursday.
China's U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong, the current council president, told reporters "we hope we will have real progress tomorrow."
An Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because council discussions are private, said the United States is discussing a range of other concrete steps with allies, both at the United Nations and at NATO. Among those additional steps are greater humanitarian aid, supporting the Libyan resistance with money from seized Gadhafi-related assets, and greater enforcement of the U.N. arms embargo on Libya.
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