The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution March 17 authorizing international action to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and take “all measures necessary” to protect civilians from attacks by the Libyan military forces.
The resolution — drafted by France and Britain and introduced by Lebanon — passed 10–0 with five abstentions. The United States added its sponsorship of the resolution before the vote.
“Today, the Security Council has responded to the Libyan people’s cry for help,” U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice said shortly after the council’s vote. “This council’s purpose is clear: to protect innocent civilians.”
“Colonel Qadhafi and those who still stand by him continue to grossly and systematically abuse the most fundamental of the human rights of Libya’s people,” Rice added.
The Security Council resolution demands the immediate and complete end to all violence and abuse against all Libyans. It imposes “a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians.”
The resolution also authorizes 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.”
In addition, the resolution authorizes U.N. members to act nationally or through regional organizations.
“The resolution also strengthens enforcement of the arms embargo and bans all international flights by Libyan-owned or operated aircraft,” Rice said. The resolution also empowers a newly established Libyan Sanctions Committee to impose sanctions against those who violate the arms embargo, she said.
On March 12, the Arab League called on the Security Council to establish a no-fly zone and take other measures to protect civilians. “Today’s resolution is a powerful response to that call — and to the urgent needs on the ground,” she said.
The Arab League called for the Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya as soon as possible in an effort to curb violence against those who have actively opposed the Qadhafi regime, according to a league statement. The league called on “the United Nations to shoulder its responsibility … to impose a no-fly zone over the movement of Libyan military planes and to create safe zones in the places vulnerable to airstrikes.”
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa told reporters in Cairo after the league conference that the measures being urged were intended to be humanitarian to protect Libyan civilians and others.
The Security Council decision came as Qadhafi’s military forces were closing in on opposition forces holding out in Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city and the headquarters of opposition forces.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)
By Merle Kellerhals Jr.