UN to vote Thursday on Libya no-fly zone

By Edith M. Lederer

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 17 2011 2:56 p.m. MDT

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, center, addresses reporters during a joint press conference held at the end of the Group of Eight Foreign Ministers meeting in Paris, Tuesday March 15, 2011. Sitting at left are Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini. and Sergey Lavrov of Russia, and at 2nd right Japan's Takeaki Matsumoto and Canada's Lawrence Cannon.

Remy de la Mauviniere, Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council scheduled a vote Thursday on a resolution to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and authorize "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from attacks by Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said he expected more than one of the council's 15 members to abstain when the vote took place at 6 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT), but council diplomats said they did not expect the resolution to be vetoed.

The resolution needs nine "yes" votes and no veto by a permanent member to be adopted.

Russia and China, which have veto power, have expressed doubts about the United Nations and other outside powers using force against Gadhafi, and diplomats said other council nations reacted cautiously including Germany, India, Brazil and South Africa.

Even if all six countries abstained, the resolution would still have the minimum nine "yes" votes.

The United States joined the resolution's initial supporters — Britain, France and Lebanon — not only in pushing for a speedy vote but also in pressing for action beyond creation of a no-fly zone to protect civilians from air, land and sea attacks by Gadhafi's fighters.

The text that will be put to a vote would "establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians," diplomats said. It also would authorize U.N. member states to take "all necessary measures" to protect civilians under threat of attack while excluding an occupation force, the diplomats said.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on France-2 Television that "time is of the essence" and that France would support military action against Gadhafi within a matter of hours if the Security Council approves the resolution.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who flew to New York to press the case for council approval, echoed Fillon in telling reporters that the resolution "must be applied quickly" because of "the urgency on the ground."

Asked whether France would take part in air strikes, he replied: "France is ready, along with others, to put in action the resolution." Juppe added that France was in contact with Britain and Arab nations.

Juppe ruled out any ground action, however.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Tunisia on Thursday that a U.N. no-fly zone over Libya would require action to protect the planes and pilots, "including bombing targets like the Libyan defense systems."

With Gadhafi's forces intensifying attacks and heading toward opposition-held Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, supporters of the resolution have been pressing for speedy council action.

In a televised speech Thursday night, Gadhafi vowed to launch a final assault on Benghazi and crush the rebels.

Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, called the situation "very worrying" and said the EU was looking to the U.N. Security Council before making further decisions. "We have always said all along that we are planning for all options," he said.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose government had expressed misgivings about a no-fly zone, proposed that the council vote first on a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Libya.

Rice told reporters a majority of council members did not support a separate cease-fire resolution, but the council added a new demand in the final draft for an immediate cease-fire "and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians."

The proposed resolution also call for stronger enforcement of the arms embargo, adds names of individuals, companies and other entities to the list of those subject to travel bans and asset freezes, and require all countries to ban Libyan flights from landing, taking off or overflying their country.

It also demands that Libya ensure the "rapid and unimpeded" passage of humanitarian assistance.

France and Britain failed to win support for a no-fly zone during a two-day meeting of Group of Eight foreign ministers in Paris on Tuesday and the G-8's final communique did not mention a flight ban, leaving any action to the Security Council.

Associated Press Writers Anita Snow at the United Nations and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.

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