International

Crisis In Libya; Saturday's Developments

1 p.m. ET: The U.S., its NATO allies and members of the Arab League are today taking military action in a bid to stop Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi and forces loyal to him from further attacks on those Libyans who are trying to topple his regime. The first step: French fighter jets are patrolling the skies above the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, to protect the people there from further attacks by forces supporting Gadhafi.

In this post, we followed developments as day turned into evening in Libya. We'll pick up the story again early Sunday. If you'd like to follow events between now and then, NPR.org's coverage is collected here.

Update at 12:50 p.m. ET. U.S. Did Not Act Unilaterally, Clinton Stresses:

"We did not lead this; we did not engage in unilateral actions," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton just said as she continues to take questions from reporters in Paris and continues to make the point that the U.S. is supporting the call from many Arab nations and allies in Europe for military action. "But we strongly support" the action, she added.

Update at 12:40 p.m. ET. U.S. Will Deploy Its 'Unique Capabilities,' Clinton Says:

Continuing her comments, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton just said that while the U.S. is not going to contribute ground troops to any military action against Libya, it is committed to contributing its "unique capabilities" to the effort. Translation: Other types of military assets, such as sea-based missile strikes, Navy ships and air-borne command control.

"The world will not sit idly by while more innocent civilians are killed," Clinton added.

Update at 12:30 p.m. ET. 'Unambiguous' Terms, Clinton Says.

Speaking in Paris, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton just said the terms that Gadhafi must meet are "unambiguous." Attacks on civilians must stop. Humanitarian aid must be allowed in.

But, she said, "if left unchecked Gadhafi may commit unspeakable atrocities." The U.S., Clinton added, supports the taking of "all necessary" steps to end Gadhafi's attacks on the Libyan people.

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. Obama Says 'People Of Libya Must Be Protected':

"Our consensus was strong and our resolve is clear," President Obama just said of the allied coalition's decision today to begin military operations against Gadhafi's regime. "The people of Libya must be protected."

"Our coalition is prepared to act and act with urgency," he added.

Obama was speaking in Brasilia, during a joint appearance with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. They did not take questions.

Update at 11:58 a.m. ET. Obama About To Speak:

President Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff have just begin a joint appearance in Brasilia. We're monitoring for any comments he makes about events in Libya.

Update at 11:40 a.m. ET. 'Full-Blown Combat Operation':

"Make no mistake, this is now a full-blown combat operation" even though it doesn't involve ground troops, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr just said.

Update at 11:30 a.m. ET. Obama Statement Shortly:

President Obama, who is now in Brazil, is expected to make a statement within minutes. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is in Paris, will likely follow that with a statement of her own.

Update at 11:25 a.m. ET. It's A 'No-Combat' Zone:

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former U.K. foreign secretary, just told the BBC that while the U.N.-authorized action is generally called a "no-fly" zone over Libya, it's in reality a "no-combat" zone. In other words, allied nations have been given the go-ahead not only to keep Gadhafi's jets on the ground but to also take action to stop his forces from conducting ground attacks.

Update at 11:10 a.m. ET. More On The Military Action:

The BBC reports that "The French Rafale jets took off from their base at Saint-Dizier in eastern France, a military source told the Agence France-Presse news agency. The planes encountered no problems during the first few hours of their mission, the source said, and the flights will continue for the next several hours. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists at the summit in Paris that he believed British, French and Canadian aircraft would launch the first airstrikes, the BBC's Carole Walker in Paris reports."

Update at 11 a.m. ET. Military Action Has Begun:

To recap, as we just reported — French President Nicholas Sarkozy has announced that the coalition lined up against Gadhafi now has fighter jets in the air over Libya.

Update at 10:54 a.m. ET. 'It Is A Grave Decision,' Sarkozy Says:

"The doors of diplomacy will open again once the aggression [by Gadhafi's forces] stops," French President Nicholas Sarkozy just said as he continued his statement on the start of military action against Gadhafi. "It is a grave decision that we take."

Update at 10:50 a.m. ET. Allied Aircraft Are In Air Above Benghazi, Sarkozy Confirms:

"Our air force will oppose any aggression by Col. Gadhafi against the population of Benghazi," French President Nicholas Sarkozy just announced in Paris. And "as as of now, our aircraft are preventing" further attacks on the people of Benghazi by Gadhafi's forces. As we said earlier, there had been reports of French aircraft over Libya. Sarkozy made clear that the coaltion aligned against Gadhafi includes Arab states, European powers and the U.S. — and that they are acting under the authority of the U.N. Security Council resolution.

Update at 10:45 a.m. ET. First Targets:

From Paris, Eleanor Beardsley reports for NPR that French news media report that the first targets of any air strikes, as military experts have been predicting in recent days, are likely to be air fields in Libya.

Eleanor Beardsley

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Eleanor Beardsley

Update at 10:40 a.m. ET. French Planes Above Libya?

There are multiple reports, from Reuters, CNN and others, that French air force planes are making reconnaissance flights over Libya in preparation for possible air strikes.

Update at 10:35 a.m. ET. Sarkozy To Speak:

According to the BBC, French President Nicholas Sarkozy "is due to make a statement on Libya shortly as the meeting in Paris with world leaders wraps up."

Update at 10:30 a.m. ET. NATO Jets Getting Positioned:

"Six Danish F-16 fighter jets landed Saturday at the U.S. air base in Sigonella, Sicily, and a half-dozen U.S. aircraft arrived elsewhere as the military buildup mounted in Italy for possible action against Libya," The Associated Press reports.

Update at 10:05 a.m. ET. A Quick Recap:

— Heavy fighting is reported in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, which opposition forces have controlled for more than three weeks.

— Diplomats are meeting in Paris, and air strikes against Gadhafi's forces and defenses could come within a few hours of that meeting's conclusion.

— The Gadhafi regime still claims it is observing a cease fire.

— Gadhafi has vowed that the nation's lining up to take military action against him will regret doing so.

Update at 9:45 a.m. ET. More On The Timing Of Strikes:

If the U.S., U.K., France and other allies do conduct air strikes against Gadhafi's forces and defenses shortly after wrapping up their emergency meeting now underway in Paris, then those actions might happen within the next couple hours.

The BBC says that:

"BBC political correspondent Carol Walker said she expected the Paris summit to continue until around 1430 GMT."

That's 10:30 a.m. ET.

Update at 8:35 a.m. ET. Air Strikes Could Quickly Follow Talks In Paris, Reuters Reports:

"World powers meeting in Paris on Saturday to discuss a coordinated intervention in Libya could launch air strikes as soon as the talks end, a source close to the discussions said," Reuters just reported. It adds that "the source said that France, Britain and Canada could take part jointly in an initial intervention. The United States could participate later on and any participation by Arab nations would come after that, he said."

Update at 8:07 a.m. ET. Whose Fighter?

NPR's Eric Westervelt, and reporters from CNN, Sky News and other outlets, are reporting that opposition leaders say the fighter jet shot down over Benghazi earlier today was being flown by the rebels — not forces loyal to Gadhafi.

8:05 a.m. ET. Gadhafi Says U.S. And Its Allies Will 'Regret' Any Military Action:

In a letter to President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Gadhafi says that "Libya is not yours. Libya is for the Libyans. The Security Council resolution is invalid" and that "you will regret it if you dare to intervene in our country."

Gadhafi says to Obama, The Associated Press says, that "If you had found them taking over American cities with armed force, tell me what you would do."

7:45 a.m. ET. Gadhafi's Forces Enter Benghazi:

Reuters is among several news outlets reporting that Gadhafi's fighters have entered the eastern port city of Benghazi. Here's how the news service's latest story begins:

"Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces pushed into the rebel-held city of Benghazi on Saturday, defying world demands for an immediate ceasefire and forcing rebels to retreat.

"The advance into Libya's second city of 670,000 people appeared to be an attempt to pre-empt Western military intervention which diplomats say will come only after an international meeting in Paris on Saturday."

Reminder: NPR's Andy Carvin (@acarvin) continues to monitor what's being reported on Twitter about events in Libya and other North African and Middle Eastern countries.

Note: NPR follows Associated Press style on the spelling of Gadhafi's name. Other news organizations use different spellings.

7:20 a.m. ET. Video Shows Plane Shot Down Near Benghazi:

This Associated Press video shows a fighter jet that appears to have been hit by anti-aircraft fire over the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, which is held by opposition forces. You can see it burst into flames, plunge to the ground, and a cloud of smoke that then rises.

Associated Press/YouTube

NPR's David Greene, who is in Tripoli, says that "if indeed it did belong to the Libyan government," the plane's presence would be another sign that Gadhafi's government is in "open-defiance of the world right now" because the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing military action demands that Gadhafi cease fire immediately.

7 a.m. ET. Regime Claims There's A Cease Fire; Witnesses Say Otherwise:

From the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk, NPR's Eric Westervelt reports that:

"In Tripoli, Gadhafi government officials continue to insist there's a ceasefire in effect and that the regime's warplanes have been grounded.

"But that's not what's happening on the ground, according to witnesses and news dispatches. Witnesses in Benghazi says artillery and mortar fire has struck the city and an explosion was reported near the rebel headquarters there.

"Witnesses and aid groups report an increase in the number of civilians trying to flee the city.

"In a strongly worded joint statement to Gadhafi late Friday the U.S., Britain and France backed by unspecified Arab countries insisted a real cease-fire, a government retreat and other steps must begin 'immediately' or Gadhafi will be forced to comply through military means."

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