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Amid uncertainty, allies prepare for no-fly zone

By Jill Lawless

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 18 2011 5:51 p.m. MDT

This undated image made available by the Ministry of Defence in London, Friday March 18, 2011, shows a Tornado GR4 of the Royal Air Force, one of the types of aircraft designated to take part in the operation of a no-fly zone over Libya. The strike/attack aircraft carries Storm Shadow stand-off missiles and Brimstone anti-armour missiles. British Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers that Britain will join a U.N.-authorized operation to stop Moammar Gadhafi launching "a brutal attack using air, land and sea forces" on the rebel-held city of Benghazi.

Ministry of Defence, ho, file) EDITORIAL USE ONLY:, Associated Press

LONDON — The United States, France and Britain told Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi to withdraw his troops from formerly rebel-held areas and halt any attacks on civilians there, as warplanes that could strike this north African country moved into the Mediterranean region.

President Barack Obama went even further, saying that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join other nations in launching military action against him.

Libya, meanwhile, said it stopped its military advance on rebel forces and invited monitors to observe the ceasfire.

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

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

"This is not negotiable," the statement said.

In Tripoli, Libya's deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, invited Germany, China, Turkey and Malta to send observers to monitor the cease-fire, which he said was holding. "The cease-fire for us means no military operations whatsoever, big or small," he told reporters.

British 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. the United States "is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya."

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.

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 held 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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