Libyan Rebel Forces Celebrate Security Council Vote

The UN Security Council voted Thursday to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and "take all necessary measures" to protect civilians. The vote came as forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi were closing in on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. In response to international pressure, Libya announced today it would halt military operations in its drive against rebels seeking to oust Moammar Gadhafi. But some reports suggest the fighting there continues and the U.S. and its allies are skeptical of Libya's ceasefire vow.

Here's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (U.S. State Department): We are going to be not responsive or impressed by words. We would have to see action on the ground, and that is not yet at all clear.

WERTHEIMER: The ceasefire announcement by Libya's foreign minister came after the U.N. Security Council last night authorized military intervention to protect Libyan civilians. After that vote, U.S. allies began positioning warplanes in the region.

The Security Council approved not just a no-fly zone over Libya, but any force necessary, short of a ground invasion, to halt Gadhafi's effort to crush his opposition.

NPR's David Greene is in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. He joins us now.

David, good morning.

DAVID GREENE: Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: What is the Libyan government saying?

GREENE: Well, the foreign minister, Mussa Kussa, came into a room full of reporters. They gathered journalists at the last minute and he had a dramatic announcement in Arabic. He said that Libya had decided to halt all military action. They were going to begin a ceasefire. They also said that they would continue economic, political and social development in the country. So they were saying things that critics of this government have wanted to hear.

It was a dramatic announcement, but initial reaction from rebels and from the United States, Britain, seems to be skeptical at this point.

WERTHEIMER: Have you heard anything from the rebels? Are they seeing fighting?

GREENE: Well, a rebel spokesman, Linda, said that they are indeed still seeing fighting, that there is, as they put it, no ceasefire yet. They said that the cities of Ajdabiya and Misurata are both being shelled still. We cannot independently confirm that. But I can say that Al Jazeera Network is reporting fighting still in Misurata. And Linda, our colleague, Tom Bowman at the Pentagon, says that a Pentagon official tells him that surveillance the Pentagon is seeing still shows Libyan government troops movements and also firing around Benghazi.

So whatever we can conclude from all of that, it doesn't seem yet that an actual ceasefire is firmly in place, if it's going to be.

WERTHEIMER: So where does this leave the U.S. and Britain France, with military deployments underway?

GREENE: Well, it feels like things are still in motion. As you heard the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I mean she said she's not going to be impressed with the words, it has to be deeds from the Libyan the Libyan government. The rebels have all along been calling for the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi, nothing short of that. And they have been spending all night celebrating the U.N. resolution that passed last night. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron said that he was ready to put planes in position to enforce the no-fly zone.

So we don't know what's going on behind the scenes, Linda. I mean there is a U.N. envoy who's been in Libya, in contact with the Libyan government. Whether the Gadhafi government is giving assurances that they will be putting a ceasefire in place, those motions behind the scenes we're just not aware of. But at the moment it doesn't seem like this announcement at a hotel in Tripoli has made much of a difference.

WERTHEIMER: The U.N. Security Council, when they voted last night to authorize military action if necessary, what's your sense of what changed for the U.S. and the others?

GREENE: It really seemed like things weren't going in that direction just a few days ago. It seemed like a no-fly zone might be something that was just debated for days and never really took place.

I think the Arab League supporting it and appearing willing to take part in enforcing a no-fly zone certain won over the United States and Britain and France, and also the United States, the Obama administration, really came around and said not just a no-fly zone but they were committed to even more than that. And I think that made a big difference as well.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's David Greene is in Libya's capital, Tripoli. David, thank you.

GREENE: You're welcome, Linda.

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