Qatar flies combat mission over Libya


ASSOCIATED PRESS

Photo

Activists of Communist Party of India burn an effigy of the United States as they protest against the military attack on Libya by the U.S., in Hyderabad, India, Friday, March 25, 2011. NATO's military staff is drawing up detailed plans to assume full control of the no-fly zone over Libya in coming days, after member nations agreed to take on the operation from a U.S.-led coalition.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Photo

Sri Lankan Muslims burn an effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama during a protest rally against the allied forces' air strike in Libya, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, March 25, 2011. NATO's military staff is drawing up detailed plans to assume full control of the no-fly zone over Libya in coming days, after member nations agreed to take on the operation from a U.S.-led coalition.

Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya

Fellow Arab and African nations raised the international pressure Friday on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, with Qatar flying the Arab world’s first combat missions over his country and the African Union imploring him to move toward democratic elections.

The military operation against Gadhafi, which on Friday included airstrikes by British and French jets, remains a U.S.-led operation, though NATO was preparing to assume at least some command and control responsibility within days.

A Libyan government delegation meeting in Ethiopia with African leaders — but not the rebels seeking Gadhafi’s ouster — said he is ready to talk with his opponents and accept political reform, possibly including elections. But the delegation also said Libya is committed to a cease-fire that Gadhafi’s forces have flouted since the government announced it, and blamed the current violence on “extremists” and foreign intervention.

NATO named Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard to lead its Libyan operation, finalizing what it hopes will be a unified command to oversee military action against the North African nation.

Envoys from NATO’s 28 member countries agreed late Thursday to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya. By Monday, the alliance expects to start doing so, as well as coordinating naval patrols in the Mediterranean to enforce the U.N. arms embargo against Gadhafi’s forces. With further approval expected Sunday, NATO will take over the responsibility for bombing Gadhafi’s military to protect civilians from attack.

The rebels claimed late Friday that they had taken the eastern gates of Ajdabiya, although that could not be independently confirmed, and such claims have been made before and proven wrong.

Earlier Friday, British and French warplanes hit near Ajdabiya, destroying an artillery battery and armored vehicles.

In Washington, the White House announced that President Barack Obama will give a speech to the nation Monday explaining his decision-making on the Libyan war.

The timing comes as some lawmakers of both major parties have complained that Obama has not sought their input about the U.S. role in the war or explained with enough clarity about the U.S. goals and exit strategy.

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