Following U.N. Vote, France Vows Libya Action ‘Soon’

March 18, 2011


UNITED NATIONS — Only hours after the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize military action, including airstrikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery and impose a no-flight zone to try to avert a rout of rebels by forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. French officials said on Friday that military action would start “within a few hours” and news reports said British and French warplanes would spearhead the attack.

Eurocontrol, Europe’s air traffic control agency, said in Brussels on Friday that Libya had closed its airspace.

In Tripoli, government minders told journalists that they could not leave their hotel for their own safety, saying that in the aftermath of the United Nations vote, residents might attack or even shoot foreigners. The extent of the danger was unclear. On previous Fridays, the minders have sought to restrict foreign journalists so they could not cover demonstrations after midday prayers on the Muslim holy day.

Journalists who have used taxi cabs to sneak away from their minders say some of their  drivers have been detained for several days or more. A government spokesman told journalists who inquired about the drivers that the journalists should not have put them at risk and nothing could be done.

On the ground, forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi unleashed a barrage of fire against the rebel-held town of Misurata in the west of the country while one of the colonel’s sons, Seif el-Islam, was quoted as saying government forces would encircle the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in the east.

François Baroin, a French government spokesman, told RTL radio that airstrikes would come “rapidly, within a few hours” following the United Nations resolution late Thursday authorizing “all necessary measures” to impose a no-flight zone.

But he insisted the military action “is not an occupation of Libyan territory.” Rather, it was designed to protect the Libyan people and “allow them to go all the way in their drive, which means bringing down the Qaddafi regime.”

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