General view of the crisis summit on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, March, 19, 2011
French President Nicolas Sarkozy says world powers meeting in Paris have agreed on the use of military action to protect civilians in Libya.
Sarkozy said Saturday the international community has a duty to respond to the call of the civilians who are facing a military assault from forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi.
He commented as pro-government forces in the north African nation advanced against rebels on two fronts. Insurgents in their eastern stronghold of Benghazi say pro-government forces are advancing in apparent disregard of the cease-fire Gadhafi declared on Friday. The rebels also say military units loyal to Gadhafi shot down one of their planes over the city.
There also are reports of fighting south of Benghazi in Adjabiya as well as in Misrata, a rebel-held city in western Libya near Tripoli.
Representatives of the U.N., European Union, Arab and Western powers have gathered in Paris to debate a response to the deteriorating military situation in Libya. The meeting followed the U.N. Security Council’s vote on Thursday on a resolution declaring a “no-fly” zone over Libya and authorizing world powers to “all measures necessary” to protect civilians.
The measure authorized international action against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in order to protect civilians in Libya from the wrath of the pro-Gadhafi military. However, the resolution does not say how and by whom the air-space closure would be enforced.
Earlier Saturday, Mr. Gadhafi sent urgent messages to world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In a letter read to reporters by a government spokesman in Tripoli, Mr. Gadhafi noted the rebels’ seizure of Benghazi and asked rhetorically how Mr. Obama would “behave” if there was a similar situation in the United States.
Addressing the U.N. secretary-general, Mr. Gadhafi said the Security Council’s resolution on Libya is “invalid,” and predicted that any Western action against Libya would be seen as “clear aggression.”
Separately, Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa held a news conference from Tripoli on Saturday. He said his government was abiding by the cease-fire.