The UN Security Council has voted in favor of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. The vote, in essence, authorizes “all necessary measures” to protect civilians from attacks by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi.
The vote, which came just hours after Qaddafi vowed to enter the opposition capital of Benghazi and crush the rebellion, paves the way for possible international air strikes on Libya.
The resolution establishes “a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians.” It authorizes UN member states to take “all necessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.”
The resolution also calls for stronger enforcement of the arms embargo on Libya, adds names of individuals, companies and other entities to the list of those subject to travel bans and asset freezes, and requires all countries to ban Libyan flights from landing, taking off or overflying their country.
The resolution demands that Libya ensure “rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance” into its territory.
Ten of the Security Council’s 15 member countries voted in favor of the resolution, which was co-sponsored by France, Britain, Lebanon and the United States. Five countries abstained, including Russia and China, as well as India, Germany and Brazil.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice welcomed the adoption of the resolution and said: “The Security Council has authorized the use of force, including enforcement of a no-fly zone, to protect civilians ... targeted by Colonel Qaddafi, his intelligence and security forces, and his mercenaries.”
Britain's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, also welcomed the resolution and said that it was necessary “in order to prevent bloodshed.” Hague praised the council members who voted in favor of the proposal.
In contrast, German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, called the resolution dangerous and said that German troops would not take part in any attack on Libya. He added, however, that his country still adheres to its position that Qaddafi must stop fighting his people.
Prior to the vote on the resolution, Qaddafi gave an interview to the Portuguese Radiotelevisao Portuguesa, in which he said that “The U.N. Security Council has no mandate. We don't acknowledge their resolutions,” and warned that any military action in Libya would be construed as “colonization without any justification” and would have “grave repercussions.”
Following the adoption of the resolution, the Al-Jazeera network showed a large crowd in Benghazi watching the vote on an outdoor TV projection and bursting into celebration.
Before the Vote: Paris and Washington Pushed for UN Intervention
Gulf News reported prior to the vote that Paris and Washington were pushing for United Nations action.
But as the international community pondered whether to impose a no-fly zone in Libya, residence in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi said that Qaddafi man is already history.
Ahmad Al Quwaidi of the February 17 revolutionary coalition said that women and children in Benghazi were committed to fighting and dying for their city. "The people of Benghazi will not allow Qaddafi to come back," the human rights activist insisted. "The majority of them, like myself experienced freedom for the first time after we kicked Qaddafi forces out of the city. We will not allow Qaddafi to come back no matter what it costs us."
Al Quwaidi noted Qaddafi's militia and mercenaries are still trying to retake Ajdabiya, 170 kilometers south-west of Benghazi, where four New York Times journalists have gone missing amidst the fighting..
"The more than 100,000 residents of the city are committed to die for their freedom and land," Al Quwaidi said. "We don't know how many people Qaddafi will kill before he understands his end has come. We don't know how long the world will wait till it comes to our rescue. What we know for sure is Qaddafi will no more come to our liberated land."
Logistical Troubles Mount
But resolve must be supported not just with food, water, medicine, electricity - but with arms and munitions. Al Quwaidi thanked Egyptian authorities for keeping the borders open, but said revolutionaries needed more than humanitarian aid. "We need arms and ammunition to fight the unlimited brutality of Qaddafi," he said.
Meanwhile, discussions are under way with Arab nations to determine if they will be directly involved in any military action the international community may take against Qaddafi, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday. At least two Arab states have said they would participate in a no-fly zone, the Arab League's UN representative Yahya Mahmassani said.
But the previously proposed no-fly zone may not be all they will be asked to enforce. In stark contrast to its previously tepid rhetoric, the Obama administration has asked the UN to not just authorize a no-fly zone, but to aid Libyan rebels by carrying out airstrikes against Qaddafi's tanks and heavy artillery.
On Wednesday, France said it could muster enough support for the Security Council to pass a resolution on Libya, and military intervention could take place within hours. of a resolution's pasing.