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U.N. Approves No-Fly Zone; Gadhafi Forces Advance

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U.N. Approves No-Fly Zone; Gadhafi Forces Advance


U.N. Approves No-Fly Zone; Gadhafi Forces Advance

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Today's U.N. vote comes as pro-Gadhafi forces continue to pound anti-government rebels, and as some civilians head for the border.

NPR's Eric Westervelt was near the border earlier today and he sent us this report.

ERIC WESTERVELT: Mubaker Abdul Hamid sits in his nearly empty cafe and restaurant in the dusty Libyan border town of Musaed, smoking, drinking tea and staring at Arabic TV reports of the day's fighting. He looks tense, a little nervous. Abdul Hamid says he worries incessantly about his family back in Benghazi and about the revolution Libyans here in the east started and now say they can't finish without Western intervention.

Mr. MUBAKER ABDUL HAMID: (Foreign language spoken)

WESTERVELT: There will be more killings if they say no to the no-fly zone, and, of course, the rebels will lose, he says.

Outside his cafe, there's a slow but steady stream of cars heading towards Egypt.

People are lined up to leave. They've got their cars stacked with luggage, sleeping bags, and it looks like a lot of possessions. Cars are really filled up.

When you talk to people, many say that they are still supportive of the revolution and the rebels and hope they prevail, and they want a no-fly zone from the U.N. and the U.S. But these people seem eager to get out of the country and get to safety. They're fearful, and they want to get out.

(Soundbite of car horn)

WESTERVELT: This man, who didn't want to give his name, hurried to get his family into the car and out of the country.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

WESTERVELT: The Libyan people only wanted freedom, and all we got was war, he says as he rushes off.

Witnesses say Colonel Gadhafi's troops now control key positions all around the rebel-held city of Ajdabiya - the gateway to Benghazi and the cradle of the uprising. Rebels say they've fought back with whatever heavy weapons they have, but they're still outgunned. And civilians and rebel sources say water and electricity has been cut off to parts of the city, and there are also food shortages.

Tonight, the official Libyan news agency said the government will halt operations on Sunday to give the rebels time to hand over their weapons.

On state TV tonight, Colonel Gadhafi offered amnesty to those who surrender but, quote, "no mercy" to those who don't. Rebel leaders dismissed the threat as part of Gadhafi's ongoing psychological warfare that continues alongside the real combat.

For a second day today, Gadhafi's air force bombed Benghazi airport, though there was little damage reported.

If fighting intensifies in coming days, officials with the U.N. Refugee Agency here on the border say they're preparing for the worst.

Astrid Van Genderen Stort is with the UNHCR.

Ms. ASTRID VAN GENDEREN STORT (Senior Media Officer, UNHCR): If Benghazi falls and if the road to the border is not cut off, we can see a large influx of people. We already see a large influx of people. We're prepositioning material - blankets, food, plastic sheeting, whatever -mats - whatever is needed for a large influx.

WESTERVELT: Back in the Libyan border town, businessman Mustafa Saleem is heading east with his family. He says he'll wait for a U.N. vote on a no-fly zone inside Egypt.

Mr. MUSTAFA SALEEM (Businessman): (Foreign language spoken)

WESTERVELT: The rebels really only need support from the no-fly zone, he says, because air power is the main advantage Gadhafi's forces have over them, Saleem says.

But it's not clear grounding his air force, if that happens, will halt Gadhafi's ground advances, which have been backed mostly by his tanks, rockets and artillery.

France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe today canceled a trip to Berlin to fly to New York for the U.N. vote. Juppe said if the resolution passes, airstrikes could start soon afterwards - even as soon as tomorrow.

Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Musaed, Libya.

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