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Nations Gather Plans to Establish No-Fly Zone Over Libya

The United States, France and Britain were making plans Friday to prevent Muammar Qaddafi's forces from attacking Libyans after the U.N. Security Council authorized a no-fly zone over Libya and "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.

The U.N. vote on Thursday night was 10-0 with five countries abstaining including Russia and China. India, Germany and Brazil also expressed misgivings about approving military action.
President Barack Obama telephoned the leaders of Britain and France after the vote, the White House said. U.S. officials speaking after a closed-door briefing in Congress said the attempt to ground Qaddafi's air force could begin by Sunday or Monday with the use of jet fighters, bombers and surveillance aircraft.

"Given the critical situation on the ground, I expect immediate action on the resolution's provisions," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the vote. He pledged to "work closely with member states and regional organizations to coordinate a common, effective and timely response."

France is readying for air strikes in Libya but insists that it's not the start of an international occupation of the North African nation.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon is holding a special meeting with the defense and foreign ministers and legislators Friday to discuss France's military plans to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya authorized by the U.N. Security Council.

Government spokesman Francois Baroin would not comment on "where, how, what target, or in what form" the strikes would take.

Speaking on RTL radio Friday, he said the strikes would happen "soon."

Baroin said intervention "is not an occupation of Libyan territory" but said even airstrikes might not make Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi "see reason."

In Brussels, NATO envoys on Friday were considering ways to enforce the U.N. resolution. Aircraft flying from NATO bases in Sigonella, Sicily, Aviano in northern Italy, and a U.S. carrier in the Mediterranean could enforce the no-fly zone.

Still, China said Friday it had "serious reservations" about the Security Council's action, with the Foreign Ministry saying China opposes using military force in international relations. It said China has consistently stressed respect for Libya's sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity and that the crisis should be resolved through dialogue.

The United States, France and Britain pushed for rapid approval of the resolution as Qaddafi's forces advanced toward opposition-held Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city. The Libyan leader warned Thursday night he would launch a final assault on Benghazi and oust the rebels from their eastern stronghold.

The vote came five days after the Arab League called on the United Nations to "shoulder its responsibility" by imposing a flight ban over Libya. Speaking for Arab nations Thursday, Lebanese Ambassador Nawaf Salam said he hoped the move would "play a deterrent role so that Libyan authorities will move away from the logic of violence."

Libya's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, whose support for the opposition inspired spurred many Libyan diplomats around the world to demand Qaddafi's ouster, called on the world to respond "immediately."

"The lives of the civilians are in danger right now and I expect the international community to move quickly," he said.

U.S Ambassador Susan Rice said the resolution "should send a strong message to Colonel Qaddafi and his regime that the violence must stop, the killing must stop, and the people of Libya must be protected and have the opportunity to express themselves freely."

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." Supporters of the resolution said authorization for "all necessary measures" provides a legal basis for countries to carry out air strikes to protect civilians from Gadhafi's forces.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said all three criteria for taking action -- demonstrable need, clear legal basis and broad regional support -- had now been fulfilled. "This places a responsibility on members of the United Nations and that is a responsibility to with the United Kingdom will now respond," Hague said.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told France-2 Television that France would support military action against Qaddafi within hours of the vote.

France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe traveled to New York for the vote, urging council members to adopt the resolution because the U.N. sanctions against Libya they passed Feb. 26 had been ignored.

"We cannot allow these warmongers to go on," Juppe said. "We cannot let international law and morality be flouted."

The United States joined the resolution's initial supporters -- Britain, France and Lebanon -- not only in pushing for a speedy vote but also in pressing for action beyond creation of a no-fly zone to protect civilians from air, land and sea attacks by Qaddafi's fighters.

It was an abrupt switch by the Obama administration following weeks of hesitation amid worries that the United States could get sucked into another war in a Muslim nation.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Tunisia on Thursday that a U.N. no-fly zone over Libya would require action to protect the planes and pilots, "including bombing targets like the Libyan defense systems," but no ground intervention is considered.

Explaining his abstention on the vote, Germany's U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig said his country backed increased sanctions against Libya in an effort to force Qaddafi from power, but "we see the danger of being drawn into a protracted military conflict."

India's deputy ambassador Manjeev Singh Puri said his country abstained because the resolution authorizes "far reaching measures ... with relatively little credible information on the situation on the ground in Libya."

The resolution also calls for stronger enforcement of the U.N. arms embargo imposed last month, adds names of individuals, companies and other entities to the list of those subject to travel bans and asset freezes, and requires all countries to ban Libyan flights.