Thursday, March 17, 2011
UN approves No Fly over Libya
United Nations (CNN) -- Joyous Libyan rebels in Benghazi erupted with fireworks and gunfire after the U.N. Security Council voted Thursday evening to impose a no-fly zone and "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.
The opposition, with devoted but largely untrained and underequipped units, has suffered military setbacks this week. It has said such international action was necessary for it to have any chance of thwarting Moammar Gadhafi's imminent assault on the rebel stronghold.
"We're hoping and praying that the United Nations will come up with a very firm and very fast resolution and they will enforce it immediately," said Ahmed El-Gallal, a senior opposition coordinator, before the vote.
"We should not arrive too late," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said at the U.N.
UN approves no-fly zone in Libya Libyan army pushes forward Libyan amb. still hopeful for airstrikes Frustration and anger in Benghazi
The resolution was approved with 10 votes, including those of the United States and the United Kingdom.
There were no opposing votes on the 15-member council, but China, Russia, Germany, India and Brazil abstained. Germany said it was concerned about a protracted military conflict.
U.N. member states can "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," according to the resolution.
It was not immediately clear just how the international military operation and possible strikes against the Libyan military would unfold. The no-fly zone prohibits Libya's air forces from entering certain zones within the country.
Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim, speaking in Tripoli, told reporters after the vote that the country will safeguard civilians and its territorial integrity.
He called on the international community to send a fact-finding missing to the African nation, but not lend material support to rebels.
A few dozen pro-Gadhafi supporters chanted, "Down with the U.N. Down with Britain. Down with the United States."
The U.S. military does not view a no-fly zone as sufficient to stopping Gadhafi.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday that establishing such a zone "would not be sufficient" to stop the gains made by Gadhafi.
Schwartz told the committee that establishing a no-fly zone would take "upwards of a week."
Gadhafi's son, Saadi, told CNN Thursday evening that troops will change their tactics and take up positions around Benghazi Saturday or Sunday and assist people fleeing from the city.
The younger Gadhafi said there will be no large-scale assault. Instead police and anti-terrorism units will be sent into the rebel stronghold to disarm the opposition. Unspecified humanitarian groups can help with the exodus of civilians from Benghazi, Saadi Gadhafi said.
In a radio address aired on Libyan state TV, Gadhafi criticized residents of Benghazi and called them "traitors" for seeking help from outsiders.
U.S. military officials have said that a no-fly zone would typically be enforced by fighter jets whose speed and altitude make it difficult to target Gadhafi's helicopters and that it would not halt the heavy artillery the regime is using on the ground.
The resolution condemns the "gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and summary executions." It details enforcement of an arms embargo against Libya, the freezing of assets and a ban on certain flights.
"The United States stands with the Libyan people in support of their universal rights," said U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice.
The resolution deplores the use of mercenaries by Libyan authorities, expresses concern about the safety of foreign nationals and demands an immediate cease-fire. Kaim said the Gadhafi government supports a cease-fire, but is working out certain details.
The Arab League's U.N. ambassador, Yahya Mahmassani, said two Arab countries would take part in a no-fly zone operation, but he was not sure which two.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the U.N. vote shows the need for Libyan citizens "to have a more representative government."
Earlier Thursday, Libyan state TV said that the rebel capital of Benghazi would soon come under attack.
Gadhafi said that his forces would enter Benghazi to rid the city of those "traitors" and that his forces will search everyone for weapons. He added that his forces gave amnesty to those who gave up their weapons in the city of Ajdabiya. "We will not allow further bloodshed among Libyans," Gadhafi said.
"Search for the traitors, for the fanatics. Show them no mercy. We will look for them behind every wall," Gadhafi said. "This farce cannot go on."
There were air strikes on Benghazi's airport Thursday, with three blasts hitting the site about 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) outside the city.
The opposition has been using the airport to launch its own air strikes, using a handful of jets that rebels have managed to get off the ground, opposition leaders said.
It is not clear that Gadhafi's ground forces are actually within striking range of Benghazi, but they have been fighting their way in that direction for several days.
State TV claimed Thursday that Gadhafi's forces were in control of Ajdabiya, on the road to Benghazi, a claim disputed by opposition leaders.
El-Gallal, speaking from eastern Libya, said "morale is high" and people do not want to leave strongholds because Gadhafi "is willing to kill everybody here."
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Posted by Steve Douglass at 5:54 PM