(Adds comments, background)
WASHINGTON, March 2 Setting up a "no-fly" zone
over Libya would require an attack to cripple its air defenses,
the U.S. defense secretary said on Wednesday, as the United
States intensified pressure on Muammar Gaddafi to step down.
"Let's just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with
an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses ... and then you
can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys
being shot down," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a
The United States is moving several amphibious assault
ships to the Mediterranean as the United States and other
nations seek to force a defiant Gaddafi to end his 41-year rule
in the face of an uprising by fragmented groups of rebels.
Western nations have also been considering a no-fly zone.
While the Obama administration says all options are on the
table, Washington may be reluctant to initiate military action
as it grapples with the financial and human costs of two long,
bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gates said a no-fly zone for Libya "also requires more
airplanes than you can find on a single aircraft carrier, so it
is a big operation in a big country."
(Reporting by Missy Ryan; Editing by John O'Callaghan and