International

U.N. Passes Resolution To Impose No-Fly Zone Over Libya

A rebel carried an ammunition belt in the streets of the eastern Libyan coastal town of Tobruk near the border with Egypt on Wednesday (March 16, 2011). i i

A rebel carried an ammunition belt in the streets of the eastern Libyan coastal town of Tobruk near the border with Egypt on Wednesday (March 16, 2011). Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images
A rebel carried an ammunition belt in the streets of the eastern Libyan coastal town of Tobruk near the border with Egypt on Wednesday (March 16, 2011).

A rebel carried an ammunition belt in the streets of the eastern Libyan coastal town of Tobruk near the border with Egypt on Wednesday (March 16, 2011).

Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

The big news today is that the United Nation's Security Council has voted to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. Resolution 1973 (2011) passed with a final vote of 10 in favor, 0 against and 5 abstentions.

The vote comes after weeks of diplomatic wrangling. The United States, Britain and France came together today to push not just for a no-fly zone but for the ability to conduct airstrikes on Moammar Gadhafi's heavy artillery.

The resolution that was adopted today authorizes "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians from the attacks of Gadhafi.

We've been updating this post throughout the day with diplomatic news, as well as reports from Libya, where the fighting has continued. Refresh this page to see the latest:

Update at 10:40 p.m. ET: We are going to pause our live blog here. We'll be back tomorrow bright and early, as there are still many questions left: The biggest of which relates to what kind of role the United States will play in enforcing a no-fly zone and the second is when that enforcement will begin.

As we reported earlier, French prime minister Francois Fillon told The Guardian, military action could commence in "a matter of hours." The AP moved a story earlier, which quoted unnamed Congressional sources, who said the U.S. expected that timeline to be more like "days."

Update at 10:38 p.m. ET: The New York Times reports that Libya's deputy foreign minister, Khalid Kaim, said that Libya welcomed the resolution's "calls for the protection of civilians." The paper adds:

Mr. Kaim said the Qaddafi government was ready for a cease-fire with the rebels, "but we need to talk to someone to agree on the technicalities of the decision." And he declined to address the possibility that the government's forces were continuing to push swiftly toward Benghazi.

Update at 10:22 p.m. ET: President Obama called British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to confer about the UN resolution. The AP reports:

Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy agreed that Libya must immediately comply with all terms of the U.N. resolution and that violence against the Libyan people must come to an end.

The AFP provides the White House statement:

"The leaders agreed to coordinate closely on next steps, and to continue working with Arab and other international partners to ensure the enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions on Libya."

Update at 10:10 p.m. ET: While the images shown on Al Jazeera right after the resolution was passed were of utter elation in Benghazi, the AP spoke to one man in the capital city who wasn't too happy with foreign intervention:

A dentist in the capital of Tripoli rejected the measure. "You are in fact protecting people carrying weapons against the official forces. This is nonsense," said Mohammed Salah, 33.

Update at 10:08 p.m. ET: The Guardian has posted full text of resolution S/RES/1973 (2011).

Update at 10:03 p.m. ET: In its official news release, the UN says that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke to Libya's foreign minister Musa Kusa by phone, yesterday. He "urged the authorities to immediately halt the violence against civilians." But the secretary general said Kadhafi "lost his legitimacy when he declared war on his people."

Update at 9:56 p.m. ET: On Twitter, CNN's Nic Robertson says Moammar Gadhafi's son, Saadi, told them that the Libyan army would not go into Benghazi. Robertson Tweets:

Saadi sd Army wud not use heavy weapns in Benghazi, wud use police & what he called "counterterororism units" 2 disarm rebels instead (more)

Saadi: and wud work w/intl aid orgs 2 help Benghazi civilians leave—wording that seemed 2 anticipate language of UN resolutn abt to b passd

Update at 7:27 p.m. ET: From The Guardian's live blog, here's a key portion of the security council resolution:

Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to 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 of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council

Update at 7:20 p.m. ET: The Wall Street Journal reports that Egypt has been shipping arms across the border to Libyan rebels with U.S. knowledge. The paper reports this is first confirmed case of a foreign government aiding rebel fighters. The paper reports this is part of a broader shift in the Arab region:

The Egyptian shipments are the strongest indication to date that some Arab countries are heeding Western calls to take a lead in efforts to intervene on behalf of pro-democracy rebels in their fight against Mr. Gadhafi in Libya. Washington and other Western countries have long voiced frustration with Arab states' unwillingness to help resolve crises in their own region, even as they criticized Western powers for attempting to do so.

The shipments also follow an unusually robust diplomatic response from Arab states. There have been rare public calls for foreign military intervention in an Arab country, including a vote by the 23-member Arab League last week urging the U.N. to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

Update at 7:16 p.m. ET: For the record, the five countries that decided to abstain from voting were Russia, China, India, Brazil and Germany. The Indian representative said there simply wasn't enough "objective analysis" and "credible evidence" of the situation on the ground in Libya.

Update at 7:03 p.m. ET: The Guardian takes on the time-is-of-essence nature of the military action:

British, French and US military aircraft are preparing to protect the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi after the United Nations security council voted in favour of a no-fly zone and air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

With Gaddafi's troops closing in on Benghazi, the French prime minister, Francois Fillon, said "time is of the essence" and that France would support military action set to take place within hours.

Update at 7 p.m. ET: Here's how the New York Times sums up the sweeping nature of the resolution that was just passed:

The measure allows not only a no-fly zone but effectively any measures short of a ground invasion to halt attacks that might result in civilian fatalities.

Update at 6:50 p.m. ET: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice says the passing of this resolution "responded to the cry for help" of the Libyan people. She said the resolution asks for an immediate cease fire from Gadhafi's forces. And that Gadhafi "continues to abuse the most fundamental of human rights." She added:

"The future of Libya should be decided by the people of Libya. The United States stands with the Libyan people in their quest for their universal human rights."

Update at 6:48 p.m. ET: Germany abstained from voting. Their representative said that they had taken into account the seriousness of military action and they couldn't ignore the great risk posed by what could become an extended military operation or the "large scale loss of life" that could result.

Update at 6:45 p.m. ET: The English representative Mark Lyall Grant said this resolution was passed to end the violence, "protect civilians" and let Libyans "decide their own future."

Update at 6:40 p.m. ET: Lebanon's representative said that this resolution was "frought with a great deal of hope. Hope for Libya and its people."

Update at 6:36 p.m. ET: Al Jazeera is showing live images of Benghazi in Libya. The crowd has just received news of the vote and there is cheering and fireworks as well the firing of weapons in celebration.

Update at 6:33 p.m. ET: The United Nations has passed resolution 1973/2011. The final vote was 10 in favor, 0 votes against and 5 abstentions.

Update at 6:27 p.m. ET: French Foreign Minister Speaks:

Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, says measures taken against Gadhafi haven't been enough.

Juppe says that the draft resolution calls for the imposition of a no-fly zone, the measures necessary to implement a no-fly zone and the ability to take all measures necessary to protect civilians in Libya.

Update at 6:22 p.m. ET: UN Coming To Order:

The meeting of the UN Security Council has been brought to order.

Update at 6:10 p.m. ET: Watch The Vote Live:

The UN's webpage is live streaming the Security Council's meeting, here.

Update at 5:51 p.m. ET: As UN Prepares To Vote, Gadhafi Issues Threat:

Speaking during a call-in show, Moammar Gadhafi warned the residents of the rebel stronghold Benghazi that an attack was imminent. The New York Times reports:

"We are coming tonight," Colonel Qaddafi said. "You will come out from inside. Prepare yourselves from tonight. We will find you in your closets."

Speaking on a call-in radio show, he promised amnesty for those "who throw their weapons away" but "no mercy or compassion" for those who fight.

Update at 5:40 p.m. ET: Italy Supports No-Fly Zone:

Reuters reports that Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said Italy would support a no-fly zone:

"We would not shirk our duties, even though our line has always been one of balance and moderation," he told Italian news agency ANSA.

Italy, Reuters points out, could be key in executing military action in Libya. It's airbase at Sigonella, Sicily is one of the closest NATO bases to Libya.

Update at 5:21 p.m. ET: The Politics Of A No-Fly Zone:

Al-Jazeera talks to Dr. David Whetman, senior lecturer at the defense studies department at King College in London, who says a no-fly zone would wide ranging political implications:

Whetham adds there is a danger in setting some precedents - no one foresaw, when Nato went ahead with the Kosovo campaign, that Russia would use the same arguments 10 years later against Georgia.

There is also a strong political element for any decision over setting up a no-fly zone.

A Western coalition intervening in the affairs of a sovereign Arab nation is likely to divide international opinion and could lead to unintended outcomes. It could also be used by Gaddafi to rally support for his regime, Whetham says.

Update at 5:13 p.m. ET: Military Action Could Come Within Hours Of U.N. Resolution:

The AP just moved this urgent news:

The French prime minister said Thursday France would support military action against Moammar Gadhafi's Libya within a matter of hours if the U.N. Security Council approves it. Francois Fillon says "time is of the essence" and "the threat of Col. Gadhafi shows how urgent it is that the international community mobilizes itself."

Update at 5:06 p.m. ET: On The UN Vote:

As we reported earlier the UN is expected to vote at 6 p.m. ET on a establishing a no-fly zone over Libya. The Guardian reports that if the resolution is passed:

British, French and US military aircraft are preparing to protect the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi after Washington said it was ready to support a no-fly zone and air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

BBC News reports that five countries will abstain from voting, including Russian and China.

Update at 4:50 p.m. ET: Gadhafi Speaks:

Al Jazeera reports that Moammar Gadhafi has given an interview to a Portuguese TV station. He said:

The Security Council has not got the right to interfere in the internal affairs of any state. It would be a flagrant colonisation, without any justification. A serious and grave [inaudible]. This is craziness, madness, arrogance. If the world gets crazy with us, we will get crazy too..."

Update at 2:00 p.m. ET: Libya Warns Against Any Foreign Attack:

Reuters reports that Libya's defense ministry issued a statement on state TV, saying that Libya would strike back at civilian targets if it came under attack by foreign forces. Reuters provides the text of the statement:

"Any foreign military act against Libya will expose all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea to danger and civilian and military (facilities) will become targets of Libya's counter-attack," said the statement.

"The Mediterranean basin will face danger not just in the short-term, but also in the long-term," it said.

Update at 1:27 p.m. ET: A Letter From French President Nicolas Sarkozy:

In a letter released by the France's permanent mission to the U.N., French President Nicolas Sarkozy urges the U.N. Security Council to take action on Libya. It reads:

It is high time for the international community, through the Security Council, to pull together in order to draw the logical conclusions from this situation and respond without delay to the urgent appeal of the League of Arab States. For this purpose, Lebanon has circulated a draft resolution.

France solemnly calls on all the members of the Security Council to fully shoulder their responsibilities and give support to this initiative.

Together, we can save the martyred people of Libya. It is now a matter of days, if not hours. The worst would be that the appeal of the League of the Arab States and the Security Council decisions be overruled by the force of arms.

Update at 1:22 p.m. ET: Arab League May Participate In Enforcing No-Fly Zone:

Al-Jazeera's live blog on Libya reports that Yahya Mahmassani, the Arab League's UN envoy, said the United Arab Emirates and Qatar "may be" among those participating in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya.

Update at 1:05 p.m. ET: Options Include Drones And Arming Rebels:

From Bloomberg: Secretary Clinton told reporters in Tunis that "specificities" are being discussed today in New York. She said that there would be no ground invasion but other options included "drones, bombing air defense systems and arming rebel forces." Clinton added:

"It is important to recognize that military experts across the world know that a no-fly zone requires certain actions to be taken to protect the planes and the pilots, including bombing targets like the air defense systems."

Update at 12:59 p.m. ET: A UN Security Council Vote:

Reuters reports that a vote on a no-fly zone over Libya and other action is expected this afternoon:

The United States said a vote would likely be taken at 3:30 p.m. EDT (1930 GMT). French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud earlier said he wanted a vote by 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT).

CNN's UN correspondent Richard Roth just tweeted that the time is now set for 6 p.m. ET.

Update at 12:39 p.m. ET: U.S. Supports Air Strikes In Libya:

U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns told Reuters today that the United States supports any measures in Libya that are "short of boots on the ground."

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice tweeted that urgent negotiations were continuing:

Urgent negotiations on #Libya continue today in Security Council. US view - need to take steps beyond no-fly zone to protect civilians.

Reuters, quoting unnamed U.S. officials fleshes out what "short of boots on the ground" means. They report that it includes airstrikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery. The New York Times, also quoting unnamed U.S. officials, reported the same thing yesterday.

(Note that we've moved things around in this post post to make it easier to read. What follows is this morning's original post.)

This morning's headlines on the fighting in Libya include:

— "Rebel Forces 'Repel Ajdabiya Attack.' " (BBC News)

— "Authorize Libya Air Strikes, U.S. Urges U.N.." (The Guardian)

— "Defiant Gaddafi Vows 'Decisive Battle.' " (Al-Jazeera)

And the latest report from The Associated Press begins this way:

"Libya's opposition battled to keep Moammar Gadhafi's forces at the gateway to rebel-held territory on Thursday, hoping for help from the U.N. Security Council before his tanks and troops break through the city of Ajdabiya.

"Gadhafi's rapid advance on the rebels appears to have spurred the United States to leave behind weeks of doubts about a no-fly zone in Libya, and start pushing for broader U.N. authorization for international air, sea and land forces."

From Tripoli, NPR's David Greene reported on Morning Edition earlier that while the anti-Gadhafi rebels are claiming some victories and still control the eastern port city of Benghazi, "Gadhafi's better-trained military has proven largely unstoppable" in recent days as it swept through areas that the opposition had taken over in recent weeks.

David Greene, from Tripoli

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