Arab League asks U.N. for no-fly zone over Libya
RAS LANOUF, Libya (AP)
The world moved a step closer to a decision on imposing a no-fly zone over Libya but Moammar Gadhafi was swiftly advancing today on the poorly equipped and loosely organized rebels who have seized much of the country.
Gadhafi's forces pushed the front line miles deeper into rebel territory and violence erupted at the front door of the opposition stronghold in eastern Libya, where an Al-Jazeera cameraman slain in an ambush became the first journalist killed in the nearly monthlong conflict.
In Cairo, the Arab League asked the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone to protect the rebels, increasing pressure on the U.S. and other Western powers to take action that most have expressed deep reservations about.
In surprisingly swift action and aggressive language, the 22-member Arab bloc said after an emergency meeting that the Libyan government had "lost its sovereignty." It asked the United Nations to "shoulder its responsibility ... to impose a no-fly zone over the movement of Libyan military planes and to create safe zones in the places vulnerable to airstrikes."
Western diplomats have said Arab and African approval was necessary before the Security Council voted on imposing a no-fly zone, which would be imposed by NATO nations to protect civilians from air attack by Gadhafi's forces.
The U.S. and many allies have expressed deep reservations about the effectiveness of a no-fly zone, and the possibility it could drag them into another messy conflict in the Muslim world.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Younis, the country's interior minister before defecting, told The Associated Press that Gadhafi's forces had driven even further into rebel territory, past the refinery at Ras Lanouf and were now just 25 miles (40 kilometers) outside Brega, the site of another major oil terminal.
Fewer rebel supporters were seen by an Associated Press reporter further east, suggesting morale had taken a hit as the momentum shifted in favor of the regime.
Outside the rebel stronghold of Benghazi deep in opposition territory, Al-Jazeera cameraman Ali Hassan al-Jaber was killed in what the pan-Arab satellite station described as an ambush.