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UN approves no-fly zone over Libya

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French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé speaks upon arriving at the United Nations for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, March 17, 2011 in New York. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé speaks upon arriving at the United Nations for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, March 17, 2011 in New York.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council has approved a resolution to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and authorize "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from attacks by Muammar Gaddafi's forces. The vote late Thursday was 10-0 with five abstentions, including Russia and China.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council scheduled a vote Thursday on a resolution to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and authorize "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from attacks by Moammar Gaddafi's forces.

France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said he expected more than one of the council's 15 members to abstain when the council meets at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT) to vote, but council diplomats said they did not expect the resolution to be vetoed.

The resolution needs nine "yes" votes and no veto by a permanent member to be adopted.

Russia and China, which have veto power, have expressed doubts about the United Nations and other outside powers using force against Gaddafi, and diplomats said other council nations reacted cautiously including Germany, India, Brazil and South Africa.

Even if all six countries abstained, the resolution would still have the minimum nine "yes" votes.

In an interview broadcast Thursday on Portuguese public broadcaster Radiotelevisao Portuguesa, Gaddafi rejected any U.N. threats of action.

"The U.N. Security Council has no mandate," Gaddafi said. "We don't acknowledge their resolutions."

He warned that any military action would be construed as "colonization without any justification" and would have "grave repercussions."

The Arab League has supported the call for a no-fly zone, and Gaddafi said that as a result "it's finished."

The United States joined the resolution's initial supporters — Britain, France and Lebanon — not only in pushing for a speedy vote but also in pressing for action beyond creation of a no-fly zone to protect civilians from air, land and sea attacks by Gaddafi's fighters.

This marked a dramatic about-face by the Obama administration which for weeks hesitated about supporting a no-fly zone, fearing that the United States could get sucked into another war in a Muslim nation.

The text that will be put to a vote would "establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians," diplomats said. It also would authorize U.N. 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."

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on France-2 Television that "time is of the essence" and that France would support military action against Gaddafi within a matter of hours if the Security Council approves the resolution.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who flew to New York to press the case for council approval, echoed Fillon in telling reporters that the resolution "must be applied quickly" because of "the urgency on the ground."

Asked whether France would take part in air strikes, he replied: "France is ready, along with others, to put in action the resolution." Juppe added that France was in contact with Britain and Arab nations.

Juppe ruled out any ground action, however.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Tunisia on Thursday that a U.N. no-fly zone over Libya would require action to protect the planes and pilots, "including bombing targets like the Libyan defense systems." She said no ground intervention is being considered.

In Britain, a lawmaker with knowledge of defense matters confirmed that British forces were on stand by for air strikes and could be mobilized as soon as Thursday night. The lawmaker declined to be named because the Defense Ministry has not issued official confirmation.

With Gaddafi's forces intensifying attacks and heading toward opposition-held Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, supporters of the resolution have been pressing for speedy council action.

In a televised speech Thursday night, Gaddafi vowed to launch a final assault on Benghazi and crush the rebels.

Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, called the situation "very worrying" and said the EU was looking to the U.N. Security Council before making further decisions. "We have always said all along that we are planning for all options," he said.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose government had expressed misgivings about a no-fly zone, proposed that the council vote first on a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Libya.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters a majority of council members did not support a separate cease-fire resolution, but the council added a new demand in the final draft for an immediate cease-fire "and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians."

The proposed resolution also call for stronger enforcement of the arms embargo, adds names of individuals, companies and other entities to the list of those subject to travel bans and asset freezes, and require all countries to ban Libyan flights from landing, taking off or overflying their country.

It also demands that Libya ensure the "rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance" and asks U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to establish an eight-member panel of experts to assist the Security Council committee in monitoring sanctions.

France and Britain failed to win support for a no-fly zone during a two-day meeting of Group of Eight foreign ministers in Paris on Tuesday and the G-8's final communique did not mention a flight ban, leaving any action to the Security Council.


Associated Press Writers Anita Snow at the United Nations and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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