UN panel OKs Libya no-fly zone


Sources say action could begin Sunday or Monday

Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS

The U.N. Security Council voted Thursday to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and authorize “all necessary measures” to protect civilians from attacks by Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, hours after the Libyan leader vowed to crush the rebellion with a final assault on the opposition capital of Benghazi.

The U.N. vote paved the way for possible international airstrikes on Gadhafi’s advancing military and reflected the past week’s swift reversal of the situation in Libya, where once-confident rebels are now in danger of being obliterated by an overpowering pro-Gadhafi force using rockets, artillery, tanks amd warplanes. That force has advanced along the Mediterranean coast aiming to recapture the rebel-held eastern half of Libya.

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 force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.”

The vote was 10-0 with five countries abstaining including Russia and China, which have veto power in the council, along with India, Germany and Brazil. The United States, France and Britain pushed for speedy approval.

In Benghazi, Al-Jazeera satellite TV channel showed a large crowd watching the vote on an outdoor TV projection burst into celebration as green and red fireworks exploded in the air.

In an interview broadcast just before the Security Council voted, Gadhafi dismissed its actions. “The U.N. Security Council has no mandate. We don’t acknowledge their resolutions,” he told the Portuguese public Radiotelevisao Portuguesa. He pledged to respond harshly to U.N.-sponsored attacks. “If the world is crazy, we will be crazy too,” he said.

U.S. officials have said the authorization for “all necessary measures” provides a legal basis for countries to carry out airstrikes to protect civilians from Gadhafi’s forces.

The Obama administration was readying plans to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya with the help of Arab countries, officials said Thursday as the Security Council voted to authorize the move.

These officials, who spoke after a closed-door briefing in Congress, said they expected the attempt to ground Moammar Gadhafi’s air force could begin by Sunday or Monday. The effort likely would involve jet fighters, bombers and surveillance aircraft.

One official said Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were among possible participants, in a showing designed to demonstrate that the effort to shield rebels trying to bring down Gadhafi had support from other countries in the region.

These officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to speak publicly on any steps the administration might take.

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