PARIS France believes there is enough support at the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution on Libya on Thursday and military intervention could take place within hours of that, senior French diplomatic sources said.
Any action could include France, Britain, possibly the United States and one or more Arab states, the source said.
"It would be surprising if there was a veto from one of the permanent members. We are convinced we have the nine votes," one source told reporters. "Once the resolution is voted, an operation could start within several hours."
The source said Paris wanted to host a three-way meeting on Libya in the next few days with high-level representatives from the European Union, the African Union and the Arab League.
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe flew to the U.N. headquarters in New York on Thursday to push for the adoption of a draft Security Council resolution aimed at halting Muammar Gaddafi's troops' advance toward a rebel stronghold in eastern Libya.
Juppe will speak to council members ahead of the Security Council vote expected at around 3.30 p.m. ET and was due to hold a news conference around the time of the vote.
The resolution calls for the use of all methods, including military ones, to protect civilians, the imposition of a no-fly zone, reinforcement of sanctions and an immediate ceasefire. It is expected to rule out a ground intervention, the sources said.
"We must go in at all costs to stop what is happening otherwise there will be a considerable humanitarian crisis," said one source.
The role of Arab countries was still being discussed, but another source said it was most likely Arab participation would involve giving permission to use airspace and military bases.
Juppe discussed Libya on Wednesday with the United Arab Emirates foreign minister, who represents the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council. Last week Juppe travelled to Egypt where he met the military leadership.
France worked last week to persuade its Group of Eight partners to back a no-fly zone over Libya and Juppe said this week there was now an urgent need for action.
The foreign ministry said on Thursday that France would not intervene in Libya without a U.N. mandate and the support and participation of Arab countries.
(Editing by Catherine Bremer and Ralph Boulton)