Military strikes on Libya within hours

AFP , Friday 18 Mar 2011

UK, France and United States will be conducting military air strikes against Gaddafi's air defenses within hours

Member states vote to approve a resolution that impose a no-fly zone over Libya (Photo:AP)

Military action to protect civilians from Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi's forces will come within "hours" and France will participate in the strikes, government spokesperson Francois Baroin said Friday.

The strikes will come "rapidly... within a few hours," he told RTL radio after the UN Security Council on Thursday cleared the way for air strikes by approving "all necessary measures" to impose a no-fly zone on Libya.

Shortly after Baroin spoke, Sarkozy met with Prime Minister Francois Fillon, as well as Defence Minister Gerard Longuet and army chief of staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud.

Baroin said the military action "is not an occupation of Libyan territory" but sought to "protect the Libyan people and to allow them to go all the way in their drive for freedom, which means bringing down the Gaddafi regime."

Baroin declined to say "when, how, on which targets, in what form," the strikes would come.

"The French who were at the vanguard of this call (for intervention) will naturally be part of the military intervention," he said.

"What happened last night (with the UN resolution) is a very important step in dealing with the war in Libya, Gaddafi's massacre of his people and we must recognise the powerful role played by President Nicolas Sarkozy and France."

Diplomats have indicated that air strikes from a coalition led by Britain, France and the United States could be imminent. However, the resolution rules out sending in foreign ground troops.

Baroin hailed the role of the 22-member Arab League in calling for action in Libya, without which "it would probably have been difficult to get the international community to do something."

"Even the Americans were in a bit of a position of waiting, of wait-and-see."

As for Germany, which along with four other countries abstained from the UN Security Council vote, Baroin said "we were already disappointed at the Council of Europe not to see Germany join us with the British in this action."

"But... what counts is what was done last night," he said. "I'm not sure, given the positions of Gaddafi and his son Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, that anything can make these terrorist and bloodthirsty dictators see reason."

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