After five hours of deliberations, and despite reservations made by some member states, the Arab League adopted an unprecedented resolution calling on the UN Security Council "to meet its responsibilities regarding the deterioration of the situation in Libya and to take all necessary measures to immediately impose a no-fly zone on the movement of Libyan military flights".
In order to quell demonstrations against his four-decade rule, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been using aircraft along with heavy artillery against civilians protesting.
The Arab League resolution calling for a "humanitarian based" no-fly zone comes as the uprising in Libya enters in its fourth week with an outcry from international human rights organisations about the likely toll of brutal military action taken against the rebellion.
It also comes as a second step by the pan-Arab organisation that earlier suspended the participation of Libya in all Arab League activities in protest at apparent gross human rights violations in Libya.
The Arab League failed to take steps previously, including in the case of Darfur, where Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir is accused by the International Criminal Court of committing crimes against humanity. "Obviously things are changing around the Arab world, and indeed in the Arab League as well," acknowledged Hesham Youssef, chief of cabinet to the Arab League secretary general.
Youssef qualified the Arab League resolution, which was adopted Saturday evening, while demonstrators outside the Cairo headquarters were crying "Action, action! We want action not words!" as "a clear indicator that the Arab world is entering a new phase". "Clearly some of the practices that could have passed before cannot pass now," Youssef added.
The Arab League official acknowledged that calls around the Arab world for democracy is imposing "a more forthcoming and a more effective approach" by the league towards all issues, including those related to human rights. "The influence of (Arab) public opinion is now becoming very marked in the positions and policies adopted by the Arab League," Youssef said.
The resolution on the situation in Libya asserts "that it is necessary to respect international human rights law" and called for "an end to the crimes committed against the Libyan people". It also underlined the right of the Libyan people to "secure their demands" for democracy while maintaining Libya's unity and territorial integrity.
Along with the call for an immediate no-fly zone, the Arab League resolution called on all Arab and international organisations to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the Libyan people and to help evacuate Arab citizens who wish to leave Libya.
Mass protests calling for democracy and an end to dictatorship are taking place simultaneously in Yemen.
Since the beginning of the year, Arab uprisings managed to end the decades-long rule of Tunisian former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali on 15 January and Egyptian former President Hosni Mubarak on 11 February. The "Jasmine Revolution" and the "Lotus Revolution" — as they have been dubbed in the Western press respectively — are offering inspiration to others across the Arab world.