The United Nations Security Council voted Thursday evening in New York to impose a no fly zone over Libya. The resolution passed 10 to 0 with 5 abstentions. Members abstaining included China, Russia and Germany, as had been anticipated.
The resolution authorizes “all necessary means” to prevent “the slaughter of civilians” a diplomat told CNN. What that means is the Security Council has approved not only the no fly zone, but any measure short of a ground invasion.
Thousands of anti-Gadhafi protesters cheered and let off fireworks on Friday to celebrate the vote. Al Jazeera television showed the crowd firing guns in the air, setting off fireworks and waving flags from the monarchy era in celebration.
According to CNN:
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.
A draft version of a proposed resolution goes beyond a no-fly zone. It includes language saying U.N. member states could “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.”
It also condemns the “gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and summary executions.”
The Guardian reported that in a defiant and menacing radio address hours before the Security Council vote, Gaddafi threatened Libyans in the rebel center of Benghazi. “No more fear, no more hesitation, the moment of truth has come,” he declared in an attempt top pre-empt the U.N. “There will be no mercy. Our troops will be coming to Benghazi tonight.” Gaddafi also warned that any attack on Libya would endanger air and sea traffic in the Mediterranean.
Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam predicted the government forces would retake Benghazi in 48 hours and any international help would come too late.
The BBC reports that British forces “could be in action by Friday.” Senior U.N. sources told the BBC that “British and French war planes could be in the air within hours to carry out initial air raids on Libyan positions, possibly with logistical support from Arab allies.”
And MSNBC says:
Military action could include France, Britain, possibly the United States and one or more Arab states, the French diplomatic sources said.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the issue publicly, said France foresees a “coalition of the willing” that would include support from Arab states but would not involve a ground operation.
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Photo courtesy of B.R.Q. via Flickr