No-fly vote sparks celebrations in Benghazi

2011-03-18 08:11
Benghazi – The UN Security Council’s move on Thursday to approve a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians from attacks by Muammar Gaddafi's forces sparked wild celebratory gunfire in rebel bastion Benghazi.

 The Security Council cleared the way for air strikes to halt Gaddafi’s  assault on embattled rebels in the country.

The 15-member Security Council in a resolution approved "all necessary measures" to impose a no-fly zone, protect civilian areas and pressure the Libyan leader into accepting a ceasefire.

The UN vote passed 10-0 with five abstentions - permanent members China and Russia which did not wield their veto power - plus Germany, Brazil and India.

No German troops will take part in any military intervention in Libya as there are "considerable risks and dangers", Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said afterwards.

"We remain eminently sceptical on the option of military intervention... anticipated in this resolution. We see in it considerable risks and dangers. That is why we could not approve this part of the text," a statement said.

"German soldiers will not take part in a military intervention in Libya."

Diplomats indicated air strikes from a coalition led by Britain, France and the United States could be imminent, just hours after Gaddafi had threatened to send his troops against Benghazi.

Change of tactics around Benghazi


Gaddafi later changed tack as "a humanitarian gesture" and decided to hold off on plans to mercilessly crush all resistance, CNN reported.

"I just took a phone call from one of Gaddafi’s sons, Seif (al-Islam). This is the message from the leadership," the CNN correspondent in Tripoli said.

"He said they're going to change the tactics around Benghazi, that the army is not going to go into Benghazi. It's going to take up positions around the stronghold. The reason is they expect a humanitarian exodus."

Libya, despite condemning the resolution as a threat to its unity, said it was ready for a ceasefire but wanted to discuss terms of its implementation, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim told reporters.

He indicated Libya would "react positively to the UN resolution, and we will prove this willingness while guaranteeing protection to civilians".

US President Barack Obama called French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday to co-ordinate Libya strategy.

"The leaders agreed that Libya must immediately comply with all terms of the resolution and that violence against the civilian population of Libya must cease," the White House said in a statement.

Celebratory gunfire

The European Union welcomed the UN resolution and the head of the European Parliament, Poland's Jerzy Buzek, said "there was no time to waste" to enforce it.

Canadian media also reported plans to send six warplanes to help enforce the no-fly zone.

In Rome, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi met defence officials to discuss the UN decision, ANSA news agency said. It also quoted Kaaim in Tripoli as saying: "Let's hope Italy keeps out of this initiative."

Italy - Libya's former colonial ruler - has been diplomatically cautious so far but has voted in favour of sanctions against Gaddafi’s regime.

In Benghazi in the east, Libya's second city and stronghold of the month-long rebellion against Gaddafi’s iron-fisted four-decade rule, celebratory gunfire rang out moments after the UN vote.

Preachers in mosques in the Mediterranean city used loudspeakers to shout "God is greatest, God is greatest".

Tracer bullets streaked across the night sky and anti-aircraft fire punctuated the sound of car horns.

Gaddafi, in a televised address, had warned just hours before the vote that his forces would attack Benghazi on Thursday night and show "no mercy".

Read more on:    un  |  muammar gaddafi  |  libya  |  libya protests  |  north africa  |  uprisings
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