Libyans celebrate UN vote, now want rapid action

2011-03-18 08:43

Supporters of Libyan rebels celebrated a UN resolution authorising a “no-fly zone” and military attacks on Muammar Gaddafi’s forces, after the Libyan leader said he would crush the revolutionaries.

But after waiting weeks for the West to act on rebel pleas to ground Gaddafi’s warplanes and stop an offensive that has retaken swathes of once rebel-held territory, Libyans who have fled the country in terror said they wanted to see action.

“It’s a great development. We are so thankful. Thousands came out last night, families, everyone celebrating. But we are waiting for it to be implemented. We are tired of talk,” said Rajab Mohammed al-Agouri who left Benghazi late yesterday.

He was near the Egyptian-Libyan border, after fleeing with five children fearing retribution from Gaddafi who said yesterday that his forces were going to the rebel capital Benghazi and would show no mercy to fighters who resisted.

“The only reason we left was air strikes. We were overjoyed when we heard the news. In Benghazi, people were firing in the air, as were people in Tobruk,” said Mahmoud, who was also with his family on the Egyptian border.

“It was like we’d won. But still, they should have done this long ago,” said the 32-year-old.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution endorsing a no-fly zone to halt government troops now 100km from Benghazi, where the rebels have set up a national council.

The resolution also authorised “all necessary measures” – code for military action – to protect civilians against Gaddafi’s forces, who have launched a concerted land, sea and air offensive on rebel-held territory.

The rebels had moved westward from their stronghold of Benghazi earlier this month, but in less than two weeks they have been rolled back as a series of coastal towns, several with oil terminals, were retaken by Gaddafi’s better equipped forces.

“We will not settle for anything but liberation for this country’s people from this regime,” Libyan National Council head Mustafa Abdel Jalil told Al Jazeera television.

“Our rebels and their determination are capable of defeating them,” he said after Gaddafi’s speech late yesterday and before the UN resolution was passed. He repeated calls for military intervention to protect civilians.

Overnight, television images showed thousands of people listening to Gaddafi’s speech in Benghazi, then erupting in celebration after the UN vote, waving anti-Gaddafi tricolours and chanting slogans against the leader of four decades.

Fireworks burst over the city and gunfire rang out. 

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