Libya Announces Cease-Fire After U.N. Backs War Against Gaddafi’s Forces
The Libyan government has announced an “immediate ceasefire and stoppage of all military operations” against anti-government rebels following a United Nations resolution authorizing the use of military force against dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. The resolution, which demands a cease-fire and allows member nations to employ “all necessary measures” to protect civilians “excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory,” passed by a vote of 10-0, with 5 abstentions.
“This resolution should send a strong message to Colonel Gaddafi and his regime that the violence must stop, the killing must stop and the people of Libya must be protected and have the opportunity to express themselves freely,” US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said.
Following the UN vote, US President Barack Obama said the resolution was non-negotiable and issued an ultimatum threatening war against Gaddafi if he continued attacking his own people. “If he does not comply, the international community will impose consequences,” Obama stated. “The resolution will be enforced by military action… The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya and we’re not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of civilians in Libya.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in France for a meeting tomorrow with international leaders and foreign ministers to discuss how to best enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973. Countries that say they will participate in military action against Gaddafi’s forces include: The United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Norway, Denmark, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Italy will allow use of bases from which to launch attacks. Germany, which along with Brazil, Russia, India and China abstained from the vote, will not participate in any military action against Libya, but Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany “share[s] the aims of this resolution.” “Don’t confuse our abstention with neutrality,” she said.
Russia and China, which could have vetoed the resolution, instead merely abstained. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Jiang Yu said Beijing “had serious reservations” about the resolution but did not veto it “in view of the concerns and stance of the Arab countries and African Union and the special circumstances that currently apply in Libya,” the BBC reports.
NATO member Turkey, perhaps the world’s most militarily powerful Muslim nation, said it opposes military intervention in Libya “for the moment.”
UN Secretary-General Ban KI-moon said military action will probably begin soon. “Given the critical situation on the ground, I expect immediate action on the resolution’s provisions,” he said. French government spokesman Francois Barion said “strikes will take place rapidly.” American officials told the BBC that air strikes could begin as soon as Sunday or Monday. French daily Figaro and Bloomberg report that the opening salvo of the possible coming attack could include cruise missiles and air strikes aimed at jamming Libyan communications, bombing tanks and attacks on the Gaddafi regime’s “center of gravity,” possibly including targeting Libyan leaders.
The resolution came at a critical moment as pro-Gaddafi forces advanced on the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi, home to a million people. Rebels and residents there cheered the UN resolution, firing guns and fireworks into the air in celebration even as pro-government forces moved to encircle the city. Col. Gaddafi addressed the people of Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, declaring his forces would show “no mercy” as they re-took the city. The Libyan dictator, who has ruled since 1969, appeared on Portuguese television and said “if the world is going crazy, we will be crazy too,” the BBC reports. Government forces also continued bombarding rebel-held Misrata and Ajdabiya as well, according to the BBC.
Libyan foreign minister Mussa Kussa said his country had no choice but to accept the terms of the UN resolution. “It’s very strange and unreasonable that the Security Council would allow the use of military power, and there are signs that this might indeed take place,” Kussa told reporters. “This goes clearly against the U.N. charter and is a violation of the national sovereignty of Libya.” Nevertheless, “Libya has decided an immediate cease-fire and immediate halt to all military operations,” he said. But rebel commander Khalifa Heftir told reporters that “Gaddafi does not speak any truth… all the world knows that Muammar Gaddafi is a liar. He and his sons, his family, and all those with him are liars.” Indeed, attacks against rebel forces continued well after the government announced the cease-fire, raising the likelihood of imminent military action against Gaddafi’s forces.
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