France was prepared to act on enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya as soon as the UN Security Council approves a new resolution, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Thursday. China and Russia abstained along with Brazil, India and Germany, who said they did not want to getsucked into a war. The operation is likely to be mounted from French air force bases in the south of the country – which is less than 1,000 miles from the Libyan coast – as well as from RAF bases in Cyprus. Italy has also said it is prepared to make its military bases available to enforce a no-fly zone.
Arab involvement was a priority for London and Washington, which are anxious to avoid a perception of outside meddling in Arab affairs.
In a 10 to 0 vote, with five abstentions, the Security Council called for an immediate cease-fire in Libya and approved the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory and the interdiction of ships carrying supplies to Gaddafi’s government. In broad language, the council approved the use of any means short of “foreign occupation” to end strikes against “civilian populated areas under threat of attack . . . including Benghazi.”…
The vote marked a dramatic turn in the world’s response to the Libyan crisis after weeks of debate and reluctance by many to intervene, and it comes as rebel forces were said to be on the brink of defeat.
Celebrations erupted across Benghazi as word of the vote reached the rebels. Clerics chanted “God is great” over mosque loudspeakers, and the streets were filled with celebratory gunfire and people waving the pre-Gaddafi Libyan flag adopted by the rebels.
France said it was prepared to launch attacks within hours, and Britain also indicated that it was prepared to act quickly. Initial strikes are likely to target air defense systems and runways; it was unclear whether plans were also in motion to strike at tank columns and other government ground forces headed east.
U.S. officials said that it would probably take several days for a full operation to be undertaken and that President Obama had not yet approved the use of U.S. military assets. Obama has preferred to let other nations publicly lead the response to the Libyan crisis, and White House officials said he would not appear on camera Thursday night to speak about the U.N. vote.