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Amid uncertainty, allies prepare for no-fly zone

By Jill Lawless

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 18 2011 2:11 p.m. MDT

Air crew work on a Royal Air Force Tornado, one of the typres of aircraft to be used in the operation of a no-fly zone over Libya, at the Lossiemouth air base at Moray, Scotland, Friday March 18, 2011. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament that preparations to deploy the aircraft were already under way and they would begin moving out to air bases in the Mediterranean region "in the coming hours".

Andrew Milligan-pa) UNITED KINGDOM OUT: NO SALES: NO ARCHIVE:, Associated Press

LONDON — Britain and France took the lead in plans to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya on Friday, sending British warplanes to the Mediterranean and announcing a crisis summit in Paris with the U.N. and Arab allies.

France said it was ready for possible military action, but with Libya declaring a cease-fire and the United States keeping quiet about its own military role, questions remained about when any action would come — and what its consequences would be.

In a joint statement to Gadhafi late Friday, the United States, Britain and France — backed by unspecified Arab countries — said a cease-fire must begin "immediately" in Libya, the French presidential palace said.

The statement called on Gadhafi to end his troops' advance toward Benghazi, and pull them out of Misrata, Adjadbiya and Zawiya, and called for the restoration of water, electricity and gas services in all areas. It said Libya's population must be able to receive humanitarian aid.

"This is not negotiable," the statement said.

Prime Minister David Cameron, one of the most enthusiastic backers of a no-fly zone, said Britain would send Typhoon and Tornado fighter jets to air bases "in the coming hours" so they would be in position to stop Moammar Gadhafi's forces mounting air strikes against rebels based in the eastern city of Benghazi.

"The clock is ticking and we must be ready to act quickly," Cameron said, adding that Gadhafi must prove he was serious about a cease-fire to avoid military strikes.

The United States has a host of forces and ships in the region, including submarines, destroyers, amphibious assault and landing ships with some 400 Marines, but U.S. officials have not said what role American participation will take.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States must see "action on the ground," not just words, on a cease-fire.

In a brief appearance at the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama made no reference to Libya's declaration of an immediate cease-fire on Friday. Instead, he listed a series of demands including a halt to all attacks against civilians, a stop to military action against Benghazi and other cities and permission for humanitarian supplies to reach the civilian population of the country.

"Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable," Obama said.

British defense analyst Charles Heyman said the Americans will have the bulk of the military responsibility.

"It's easy for the British and the French to talk a lot about it when they actually don't have all the right equipment to maintain a no-fly zone on their own," Heyman said.

Britain, France and NATO were holding emergency meetings Friday on using military force to enforce the no-fly zone, which was approved by U.N. Security Council on Thursday.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said "everything is ready" for action, but added that "we have to analyze the conditions of the cease-fire."

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO was "completing its planning to be ready to take appropriate action in support of the U.N. resolution as part of the broad international effort."

French government spokesman Francois Baroin would not comment on "where, how, what target, or in what form" air strikes against Libyan installations would come.

Officials announced that the leaders of Britain, France and Germany and the chiefs of the United Nations and Arab League would join other world leaders for an emergency summit on Libya in Paris Saturday.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said "it is imperative that the international community continues to speak with one voice" on Libya.

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