Nations draw up plans for no-fly zone over Libya

By Anita Snow

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 18 2011 1:55 a.m. MDT

Member states vote to approve a resolution that will impose a no-fly zone over Libya during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council at UN headquarters Thursday, March 17, 2011. In addition to the no-fly zone, the resolution authorizes "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from attacks by Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

Jason DeCrow, Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — The United States, France and Britain were making plans Friday to prevent Moammar Gadhafi's forces from attacking Libyans after the U.N. Security Council authorized a no-fly zone over Libya and "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.

The U.N. vote on Thursday night was 10-0 with five countries abstaining including Russia and China. India, Germany and Brazil also expressed misgivings about approving military action.

President Barack Obama telephoned the leaders of Britain and France after the vote, the White House said. U.S. officials speaking after a closed-door briefing in Congress said the attempt to ground Gadhafi's air force could begin by Sunday or Monday with the use of jet fighters, bombers and surveillance aircraft.

"Given the critical situation on the ground, I expect immediate action on the resolution's provisions," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the vote. He pledged to "work closely with member states and regional organizations to coordinate a common, effective and timely response."

In Brussels, NATO envoys on Friday were considering ways to enforce the U.N. resolution. Aircraft flying from NATO bases in Sigonella, Sicily, Aviano in northern Italy, and a U.S. carrier in the Mediterranean could enforce the no-fly zone.

Still, China said Friday it had "serious reservations" about the Security Council's action, with the Foreign Ministry saying China opposes using military force in international relations. It said China has consistently stressed respect for Libya's sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity and that the crisis should be resolved through dialogue.

The United States, France and Britain pushed for rapid approval of the resolution as Gadhafi's forces advanced toward opposition-held Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city. The Libyan leader warned Thursday night he would launch a final assault on Benghazi and oust the rebels from their eastern stronghold.

The vote came five days after the Arab League called on the United Nations to "shoulder its responsibility" by imposing a flight ban over Libya. Speaking for Arab nations Thursday, Lebanese Ambassador Nawaf Salam said he hoped the move would "play a deterrent role so that Libyan authorities will move away from the logic of violence."

Libya's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, whose support for the opposition inspired spurred many Libyan diplomats around the world to demand Gadhafi's ouster, called on the world to respond "immediately."

"The lives of the civilians are in danger right now and I expect the international community to move quickly," he said.

U.S Ambassador Susan Rice said the resolution "should send a strong message to Colonel Gadhafi and his regime that the violence must stop, the killing must stop, and the people of Libya must be protected and have the opportunity to express themselves freely."

The resolution establishes "a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians." It also authorizes U.N. member states to take "all necessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation." Supporters of the resolution said authorization for "all necessary measures" provides a legal basis for countries to carry out air strikes to protect civilians from Gadhafi's forces.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said all three criteria for taking action — demonstrable need, clear legal basis and broad regional support — had now been fulfilled. "This places a responsibility on members of the United Nations and that is a responsibility to with the United Kingdom will now respond," Hague said.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told France-2 Television that France would support military action against Gadhafi within hours of the vote.

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