U.N. okays military action on Libya

TRIPOLI/UNITED NATIONS Thu Mar 17, 2011 7:20pm EDT

1 of 22. Security Council members vote on a Libyan resolution during a Security Council Meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York March 17, 2011. China, Brazil, Russia, India and Germany abstained from the vote.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

TRIPOLI/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations authorized military action to curb Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Thursday, hours after he threatened to storm the rebel bastion of Benghazi overnight, showing "no mercy, no pity."

"We will come, zenga, zenga. House by house, room by room," he said in a radio address to the eastern city.

Al Jazeera television showed thousands of Benghazi residents in a central square celebrating the U.N. vote, waving anti-Gaddafi tricolor flags and chanting defiance of the man who has ruled for four decades. Fireworks burst over the city.

Gaddafi had warned that only those who lay down their arms would be spared vengeance to be exacted on 'rats and dogs'.

"It's over. The issue has been decided," Gaddafi said. "We are coming tonight...We will find you in your closets.

"We will have no mercy and no pity."

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution endorsing a no-fly zone to halt government troops now around 100 km (60 miles) from Benghazi. It also authorized "all necessary measures" -- code for military action -- to protect civilians against Gaddafi's forces.

But time was clearly running short for the city that has been the heart of Libya's revolution.

Residents said the Libyan air force unleashed three air raids on the city of 670,000 on Thursday and there has been fierce fighting along the Mediterranean coastal road as Gaddafi moves to crush the month-old insurrection.

French diplomatic sources said military action could come within hours, and could include France, Britain and possibly the United States and one or more Arab states; but a U.S. military official said no immediate U.S. action was expected following the vote.

Ten of the Council's 15 member states voted in favor of the resolution, with Russia, China and Germany among the five that abstained. There were no votes against the resolution, which was co-sponsored by France, Britain, Lebanon and the United States.

Rebel National Council head Mustafa Abdel Jalil told Al Jazeera television air strikes were essential to stop Gaddafi.

"We stand on firm ground. We will not be intimidated by these lies and claims... We will not settle for anything but liberation from this regime."

It was unclear if Gaddafi's threat to seize the city in the night was anything more than bluster. But at the very least it increased the sense that a decisive moment had come in an uprising that only months ago had seemed inconceivable.

Some in the Arab world sense a Gaddafi victory could turn the tide in the region, weakening pro-democracy movements that have unseated autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt and raised mass protests in Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere.

RETALIATION

By late evening, telephone lines to Benghazi and internet connections appeared to be cut.

Gaddafi's Defense Ministry warned of swift retaliation, even beyond Libyan frontiers, if the U.N. voted for military action against the oil-exporting nation.

"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," the ministry said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by a Reuters reporter in Benghazi, Michael Georgy in Tripoli, Mariam Karouny and Tarek Amara in Tunisia, Louis Charbonneau and Patrick Worsnip at the United Nations, John Irish in Paris; writing by Ralph Boulton; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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Comments (40)
SportsCar39 wrote:
This is a black day in United States history. They tried to justify why they had to go into Iraq in order to remove Sadam, but they can’t find a reason to go into Libya to save all those poor people dying each day,because they just want to experence freedom just like the people of the United States. Obama needs to get off his cookies and do something before its to late for all those persecuted people of Libya.

Mar 16, 2011 10:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
anonym0us wrote:
Game over.
France should have acted unilaterally if they really wanted Gaddafi to go down. But this is another proof that the French have a big loud mouth not backed by real military muscle. The last time they’ve won a battle was during Napoleon’s reign, and they either lost every battle and war they fought, or had to be rescued by allies ever since. They may like it or not, but the symbol of their military prowess, their most renown war hero is Marshal P├ętain, whose most glorious deed was signing of surrender.

Mar 16, 2011 10:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Miseph wrote:
The rebels have formed a provincial government in Benghazi. If they want help from the US or Europe, they can ask for it. Otherwise, we will destroy the rebellion’s legitimacy entirely.

If the US is to get directly involved, I think our only effective action for now is to use special forces teams to quietly eliminate mercenary companies from neighboring states fighting for Gadhafi. And by quietly, I mean in the middle of the night, to the man, no survivors. Once word gets around that mercenaries are prone to just up and dying without explanation, you’ll see them abandoning the job in a hurry.

Mar 16, 2011 11:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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