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Libya: UN backs action against Colonel Gaddafi

BBC News

The UN Security Council has backed a resolution on Libya that supports a no-fly zone and “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.

Meeting in New York, the 15-member body agreed “to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack”.

It also supported a no-fly zone to help halt the advance of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

Reports suggest air strikes may begin within hours of the resolution passing.

The US, UK and France proposed the council resolution, backing action short of an invasion. It passed 10-0 with five abstentions.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, introducing the resolution, said: “In Libya, for a number of weeks the people’s will has been shot down… by Colonel Gaddafi who is attacking his own people.

“We cannot let these warmongers do this, we cannot abandon civilians.”

He added: “We should not arrive too late.”

Russia and China – which often oppose the use of force against a sovereign country as they believe it sets a dangerous precedent – abstained rather than using their power of veto.

Earlier reports suggested that if the resolution was passed, air attacks on Col Gaddafi‘s forces by the British and French air forces could begin within hours.

It is not thought that the US would be involved in the first strikes, but the British and French are likely to get logistical backup from Arab allies.

Col Gaddafi‘s forces have recently retaken several towns seized by rebels during an uprising.

Earlier on Thursday, addressing the people of Benghazi, the rebels’ main stronghold, Col Gaddafi said his troops were coming “tonight” and there would be “no mercy”.

He told rebels to go home, adding that “whoever lays down his weapons” would be pardoned.

Rebel leaders replied by saying their forces would stand firm and not be deterred by Col Gaddafi‘s threats.

Late on Thursday, anti-aircraft fire and explosions were heard in Benghazi.

‘Boots on the ground’

US Undersecretary of State William Burns had earlier said the administration supported international measures in Libya “short of boots on the ground”.

The Libyan military has warned that any foreign operations against Libya will expose all maritime and air navigation in the Mediterranean Sea to danger, state TV reports.

“All civilian and military activities will be the target of a Libyan counter-attack. The Mediterranean Sea will be in serious danger not only in the short term but also in the long term,” a screen caption said.

In other developments:

  • Forces loyal to Col Gaddafi reportedly launched their first air attacks on Benghazi, targeting the airport at Benina
  • Col Gaddafi‘s forces attacked the rebel-held town of Ajdabiya, a key objective before launching a ground assault on Benghazi, but rebels deployed tanks, artillery and a helicopter to repel the assault
  • Libyan state television reported that the city of Misrata was almost entirely under government control, but rebels and residents in the city denied this
  • Official Libyan news agency Jana reported that government forces would cease military operations from midnight on Sunday to give rebels the opportunity to hand over their weapons and “benefit from the decision on general amnesty”

Following the toppling of the long-time leaders of neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year, Libyan protesters started to demand that Col Gaddafi step down after 42 years of autocratic rule. They quickly seized much of eastern Libya.

Read the original article at BBC News.

 

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