World Leaders Convene In Paris For Libya Summit

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Paris, where world leaders are holding talks over possible military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces. They are expected to finalize details of the Libyan no-fly zone that was approved Thursday by the U.N. Security Council. Eleanor Beardsley is in Paris, and discusses the details of the summit with Scott Simon.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Paris today. She's joined by leaders from Europe and the Arab world for a summit about Libya, where they're expected to finalize details of the Libyan no-fly zone approved Thursday by the U.N. Security Council.

NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is in Paris. Eleanor, thanks for being with us.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: And what seems to be the object of this meeting?

BEARDSLEY: Well, they're not going to get down in the nitty-gritty details of a military operation, because apparently that's already in place. The goal of this meeting is to give a symbol to the world, to show that the world united -not just the west, but the Arab countries especially, because it's important that they're here today - is united against Gadhafi.

And analysts are saying already that as soon as this meeting wraps up, it's meant to give the send off for a military operation. The A-OK, thumbs up, let's start it. So it's of symbolic importance to show that the entire world, including the Middle East is on board. They want an end to Gadhafi's rule and to his massacring his citizens.

SIMON: And any word on how military action would begin, what the targets would be?

BEARDSLEY: Yes. They're saying that from many bases around the Mediterranean, an analyst described the Mediterranean to me as a small lake that can be over Libya within a matter of, you know, minutes. They will target some of the main airports in Tripoli, Sebha. There's also that long line of, you know, from headquarters in Tripoli to Benghazi in the east. Gadhafi has material and soldiers that could easily be bombed.

But now, you know, they're showing on television that Gadhafi's forces have already entered into the city of Benghazi, so that could make it more complicated, because you cannot do airstrikes over a city. So there is an urgency that this meeting take place, and that they start the operation.

SIMON: And any doubt but that the object is in fact to bring down Moammar Gadhafi and not just to protect civilians or secure humanitarian relief?

BEARDSLEY: That's right. Those are the first reasons, and ostensibly it's for that. But there - no, there's no doubt. Because for example, France has already broken all relations with Gadhafi and, you know, analysts are saying that the mission is to protect the civilians, but they want Gadhafi gone.

And this is supposed to be a military operation, not to use a worn-out phrase, Scott, but of shock and awe. I mean, it is so militarily disproportionate. The hardware they have lined up to attack Gadhafi. It is supposed to shake loose those last supporters of Gadhafi and show them that, you know, he is no longer wanted in the international community, and he needs to go.

So it's supposed to give that space and support to the Libyan people to get rid of their leader.

SIMON: And is the U.S. pointedly in a role that supports Britain and France more than taking the major role?

BEARDSLEY: That's right. The U.S. is absolutely on board, but it's very important that the U.S. not be seen as leading the mission and out front. So for example, they were showing on TV this morning in France footage of President Obama leaving for Latin America with his family. That's important because we don't want America to look front and center.

This mission is gonna be led by Britain, France, and the Arab countries. This being said, the U.S. will support with intell, refueling; there's the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, and behind the scenes, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been crucial in making this resolution broad so that it would include, you know, the possibility to bomb Gadhafi's targets.

So the U.S. in involved, big support role, doesn't want to be seen leading it.

SIMON: Eleanor Beardsley is covering today's summit in Paris, and we'll bring you more updates as we learn more. Eleanor, thanks for being with us.

BEARDSLEY: Great to be with you, Scott.

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