U.N.-Sanctioned No-Fly Zone Enforced Over Libya

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Saturday that his nation's warplanes have begun enforcing a U.N.-sanctioned no-fly zone over Libya. NPR's Eric Westervelt is in Eastern Libya, and discusses the latest developments with Scott Simon.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Moammar Gadhafi today warned Britain, France, and the United Nations they'll regret it if they attack his country. This is the voice a Libyan government spokesman reading Gadhafi's letter to reporters a short while ago.

MOAMMAR GADHAFI (Through Libyan Government Spokesman Ibrahim Moussa): Who gave you the right to intervene in our internal affairs? You will regret it if you take the step towards intervening in our internal affairs.

SIMON: That's Libyan government spokesman, Ibrahim Moussa in Tripoli, speaking to journalists, including NPR's David Greene who joins us on the line. David, thanks for being with us.

DAVID GREENE: Good to be here, Scott.

SIMON: And is this just I dare you from Gadhafi?

GREENE: It sure sounds that way. I mean, it certainly sounds at least like Gadhafi is bracing for what he thinks will be attacks from France, Britain, perhaps others.

He also said in that letter Libya is not yours. Libya is for Libya's people. And Gadhafi went on in that letter. He said he would never fire a bullet at his own people, which is exactly what western powers have been suggesting he is doing, which is the whole reason for the United Nations Security Council to protect the civilians in Libya.

And so a different story coming from them and from Gadhafi himself.

SIMON: Help us understand what I gather is a second letter that Mr. Gadhafi addressed to President Obama.

GREENE: Yeah. That was a strange moment in this press conference. And I want to play you a little more tape from that government spokesman. So this is reading a letter from Gadhafi to President Obama.

MOAMMAR GADHAFI (Through Libyan Government Spokesman Ibrahim Moussa): To our son, his Excellency, the President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama. I have said to you before that even if Libya and the United States of America enter into a war, God forbid, you will always remain my son, and I have all the love for you as a son.

SIMON: David, I just don't know what to make of that.

GREENE: Neither do we, Scott. And Gadhafi often sends messages that you don't exactly know what to make of. I mean, he went on to say in that letter, President Obama, what would you do if you had Al Qaida, or elements of Al Qaida, running your cities? He said that's what's happening in Libya.

In that letter, Scott, Gadhafi said that all of Libya is with him. He, Gadhafi, is prepared to die and all the Libyan people, including women and children are prepared to die.

SIMON: Help us understand where we stand now. Because we heard a cease-fire announced by Libya, and then today defiance from Gadhafi, and of course the continued military action that you mentioned.

GREENE: Yeah. And I don't know if you can hear it behind me that there's been sporadic gunfire here in the capital of Tripoli a lot of today, and what the government says is that's celebration. There's no way we can confirm that. We're not able to get out of the hotel for much of the day to go check out these reports.

It certainly still has the feeling of a conflict here in Libya. The reports from Benghazi, the rebel stronghold in the east, witnesses have told NPR that it's still getting shelled by mortars and artillery. There as a plane that was actually shot down in the sky.

Several of our colleagues, both from the AP and BBC saw that plane go down in a fireball. It's not clear - there are conflicting reports whether it was a rebel plane, or whether it was actually one of Gadhafi's planes.

But, you know, these mixed messages coming from Gadhafi, he has said nothing yet that would suggest he can convince President Obama, France, Britain, and others to do anything but come at him. And so I think this is a country that is waiting to see if it is attacked. If these - if the international community acts on the no-fly zone that was approved by the United Nation Security Council, and what President Obama and France and Britain have said is that they want to give the Libyan people the chance to meet their aspirations for a different leader, and that they're going to do anything to make that happen.

SIMON: So what's the mood of people in Tripoli as you can talk to them? Bracing themselves? Resigned?

GREENE: I think so. They're angry. A lot of them who we talked to - and we should say, this is on trips where the government minders take us out into the streets. But a lot of them are Gadhafi supporters who say we would die for our leader, and very angry that the United States, Britain, and France would try and intervene in this country.

But obviously there are a lot of critics of Gadhafi who are just not really speaking out to reporters right now. I think they're very fearful.

SIMON: NPR's David Greene in Tripoli, thanks so much.

GREENE: Thank you, Scott.

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