US hails UN Libya action
Washington - The United States said on Thursday it was pleased with a UN Security Council resolution approving force to protect Libyan rebels as key senators called for the immediate enforcement of a no-fly zone.
The world body had earlier cleared the way for air strikes to halt Muammar Gaddafi’s offensive against embattled rebel forces, with the first bombing raids possible within hours.
"The US is very pleased with today's vote," US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told reporters after Washington joined nine other members, including Britain, France and Lebanon, to approve the measure.
"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."
"Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy. There is no justification for his continued leadership now that he has perpetrated violence against his own people," she added, echoing previous US calls for the strongman to step down.
The resolution permits "all necessary measures" to impose a no-fly zone, protect civilian areas and impose a ceasefire on Gaddafi’s military, but does not allow sending in ground forces.
Senators John McCain, John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman applauded the UN vote and urged swift implementation of the measures "before it is too late".
"With Gaddafi’s forces moving towards Benghazi, we must immediately work with our friends in the Arab League and in Nato to enforce this resolution and turn the tide before it is too late," the senators said in a joint statement.
"This was an important step on behalf of the people of Libya, but it will only be as effective as its implementation," they said.
Diplomats indicated that air strikes from a coalition led by Britain, France and the United States could be imminent as Gaddafi’s troops close in on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
Obama called French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron shortly after the passage of a resolution.
"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.
"The leaders agreed to co-ordinate closely on next steps, and to continue working with Arab and other international partners to ensure the enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions on Libya."