World Leaders Hope for UN Vote on Libya Resolution by Thursday

U.S. joins France, Britain in urging swift action on a proposed no-fly zone, with Clinton indicating Washington may have decided to back the plan.

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The United States, France and Britain on Wednesday urged the UN Security Council to take swift action on a proposed no-fly zone over Libya, as Washington suggested it might have decided to back the plan.

Britain, France and Lebanon have circulated to the 15-nation council a draft resolution to authorize a no-fly zone to halt Libyan government air strikes on rebels. But the United
States, Russia, China, Germany, India and other council members have been either undecided or voiced doubts about the idea.

Pro-Gadhafi fighters raise their fists during a government-organized visit for foreign media near Ras Lanouf, 615 km southeast of the capital Tripoli, in Libya, March 12, 2011.Credit: AP

British, French and Lebanese envoys distributed the draft on Tuesday after the Arab League called on the council over the weekend to establish a no-fly zone in Libya.

In remarks that suggested a reluctant Washington had now agreed to support the idea of a no-fly zone, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was hopeful the council would take a vote on a Libya resolution no later than Thursday.

"We are moving as rapidly as we can in New York to see whether we can get additional authorization for the international community to look at a broad range of actions, not just a no-fly zone but other actions as well," Clinton told reporters in Cairo.

"We won't know until there is an actual vote. We're hoping that will be no later than tomorrow," she said.

Clinton told CBS television that the Arab League call for a no-fly zone had caused a "sea change" in thinking.

"For the Arab League to call for military action to protect civilians in Libya, against a member of the Arab League, was an extraordinary statement of leadership and real conviction," she said. "That has changed the thinking of a lot of people."

Washington had reacted cautiously to the calls for a no-fly zone over Libya, with some officials concerned it could be militarily ineffective or politically damaging. It has insisted Arab nations actively participate in any such zone over Libya.

French UN Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters he also hoped for a vote by Thursday evening.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote in a letter to the council that it was "high time for the international community ... to pull together ... and respond without delay to the urgent appeal of the League of Arab States."

"Together, we can save the martyred people of Libya," he said. "It is now a matter of days, if not hours. The worst would be that the appeal of the (Arab League) and the Security Council decisions be overruled by the force of arms."

Lebanese Ambassador Nawaf Salam urged the council to act before it was too late for a no-fly zone to have any impact. He mentioned a prediction by Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam, who has said that the rebels would be defeated within two days.

"It is our hope that the Security Council will impose a no-fly zone quickly and prove him wrong," he said.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters that London was also emphasizing the urgency of the situation to fellow council members.

Salam said one concern raised by Germany and others -- the apparent clash between the Arab League's call for a no-fly zone and its opposition to foreign military intervention -- was not a contradiction. He said Arab nations would help enforce any no-fly zone authorized by the council.

"There will be a significant Arab participation," he said.

Clinton told CBS that the Arabs should play a prominent role. "The Arab League statement, their very courageous stance, suggests that they know that they have to step up and lead and participate in any action that would be internationally authorized," she said.

The draft resolution says the council "decides to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of [Libya] in order to help protect civilians."

It authorizes member states to "take all necessary measures to enforce compliance" and says countries implementing the ban would be doing so in cooperation with the Arab League and in coordination with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban called on Wednesday for an immediate ceasefire in Libya.

The draft also provides for the expanding of sanctions already slapped by the UN council on Libyan leaders on Feb. 26 -- including asset freezes, travel bans and an arms embargo -- to cover all assets abroad of the Gadhafi government.



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