World leaders launch military action in Libya
Top officials from the US, Europe and Arab world have announced immediate military action in Libya.
Paris: Top officials from the United States, Europe and the Arab world have announced immediate military action to protect civilians amid combat between Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi`s forces and rebel fighters.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after an emergency summit in Paris on Saturday that France has already taken military action against Libya.
Sarkozy said "our determination is total."
Earlier Saturday, Libyan government troops forces stormed into the rebel capital of Benghazi, apparently ignoring a proclaimed cease-fire and potentially complicating any allied military action.
Muammar Gaddafi`s government declared a cease-fire Friday in an attempt to outmaneuver Western military intervention. But the opposition said shells rained down well after the announcement and accused the Libyan leader of lying. Early Saturday, a plane was shot down over the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to host leaders including Angela Merkel of Germany and Britain`s David Cameron, as well as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon are also expected, along with the Qatari emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, and the Saudi and Emirates foreign ministers.
Action could hinge on the cease-fire: Gaddafi`s foreign minister says it`s in effect; rebel leaders insist the government is lying; the Western and Arab-world allies say they want proof, not promises, that it`s holding.
On Friday, Britain and France took the lead in plans to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. Paris said it was ready for possible military action, without specifying, while Britain ordered warplanes to the Mediterranean.
"The clock is ticking and we must be ready to act quickly," Cameron said Friday, adding that Gaddafi must prove he was serious about a cease-fire to avoid military strikes.
With Libya insisting it is holding to the ceasefire, and the United States keeping quiet about its own military role, questions remain about when any action will come — and what its consequences would be.
In a joint statement to Gaddafi late Friday, the United States, Britain and France — backed by unspecified Arab countries — said a cease-fire must begin "immediately" in Libya, the French presidential palace said.
The statement called on Gaddafi to end his troops` advance toward Benghazi, and pull them out of Misrata, Adjadbiya and Zawiya, and called for the restoration of water, electricity and gas services in all areas. It said Libya`s population must be able to receive humanitarian aid.
NATO leaders met Friday to work out the details of a flight ban over Libya, after the UN Security Council gave the international community the surprisingly wide mandate to defend civilians under attack by loyalist forces.
The United States has a host of forces and ships in the area, including submarines, destroyers, amphibious assault and landing ships. US officials have not specified the possible American role — although Obama said Friday that no US ground troops would be involved.
NATO military planners said dozens of fighter-bombers, tankers, air surveillance aircraft and unmanned drones could be deployed to a string of air bases along Europe`s southern perimeter from which to send patrols over Libya. Officials said the operation could start as early as this weekend.
Alliance surveillance AWACS planes flying off the Libyan coast are already providing 24-hour coverage of the situation in the air and on the battlefields. Analysts said no-fly zone aircraft would be flying from NATO bases such as in Sigonella, Sicily, Aviano in northern Italy, Istres in southern France, and Ventiseri-Solenzara in Corsica.