Libya announces cease-fire amid foreign military moves

(CNN) — Libya announced a “immediate” cease-fire and a halt to military action Friday, hours after the U.N. Security Council authorized the use of force to protect besieged civilians in Libya.

Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa said Libya is “obliged to accept the Security Council resolution that permits the use of force to protect the civilian population.”

He said Libya has decided on “an immediate ceasefire and the stoppage of all military operations.”

It was not immediately clear how his announcement could affect plans of some countries to intervene militarily in Libya — authorities in Britain and France had talked before Koussa’s remarks of imminent military action.

Speaking to reporters Friday in Tripoli, Koussa said Libya plans to protect civilians and provide them with humanitarian assistance and that it is obliged to protect all foreigners and their assets. He also called for a fact-finding mission to sort out the events on the ground.

Koussa says the Libya was disappointed in the imposition of a no-fly zone, arguing that it will hurt the civilian populatio. He also said the use of military power violates the country’s sovereignty and goes against the U.N. charter, but he acknowledged that some countries may yet intervene.

“There are signs this indeed might take place,” Koussa said.

Earlier Friday, talk emerged in Europe of swift military action against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

Speaking in an interview with RTL radio, French government spokesman Francois Baroin said France plans to participate in what he described as “swift” efforts.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain has started preparations to deploy aircraft, and “in the coming hours” they will move to air bases where they will be positioned for any “necessary action.”

Spain will offer NATO the use of two military bases and also provide air and naval forces for use in operations involving Libya, Defense Minister Carme Chacon said on Friday in Madrid, a defense ministry spokesman told CNN.

The two bases to be offered in southern Spain are the Rota air-naval station, where a contingent of U.S. troops is also based, and the airbase at Moron de la Frontera. Those, as well as the offer to provide air and naval assets, would be subject to parliamentary approval, the minister said at an event at a Spanish air base in Madrid, the spokesman said.

U.S. President Barack Obama plans to make remarks on the Libyan crisis on Friday afternoon.

The council Thursday night voted 10 to 0 with five abstentions to authorize “states to take all necessary measures to protect civilians.” It also imposed a no-fly zone, banning all flights in Libyan airspace, with exceptions that involve humanitarian aid and evacuation of foreign nationals.

The decisive Security Council move comes after weeks of civil war between the Gadhafi regime and opposition forces, a conflict spurred by an anti-government uprising and regime violence against civilians, which the U.N. resolution cites as “outrageous.”

Details has not fully emerged of how an international military operation might unfold in Libya.

The United States and its NATO partners have several contingencies in place to act quickly, according to an administration official familiar with planning. They include air strikes and cruise missile attacks designed to cripple Libyan air defenses and punish the military units that are leading Gadhafi’s push on opposition strongholds in the east, the official said.

Obama will insist on a major Arab role in any no-fly zone, the official said.

The Arab League’s U.N. ambassador, Yahya Mahmassani, said two Arab countries would take part in a no-fly zone operation, but he was not sure which two.

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday that establishing a zone would take “upwards of a week.”

But the U.S. military does not view a no-fly zone alone as sufficient to stop Gadhafi. Military officials have said that this move would not halt the heavy artillery the regime is using on the ground.

All commercial air traffic has been shut down in Libya, an official at Eurocontrol said on Friday.

The opposition, with devoted but largely untrained and under-equipped units, has suffered military setbacks this week. But their hopes were buoyed by the U.N. vote, particularly in rebel-held Benghazi, where an assault by pro-Gadhafi forces has been expected.

The resolution singles out the city. It says U.N. member states can “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.”

Gadhafi’s son Saadi told CNN Thursday evening that troops will change their tactics and take up positions around Benghazi Saturday or Sunday and assist people fleeing from the city.

The younger Gadhafi said there will be no large-scale assault. Instead police and anti-terrorism units will be sent into the rebel stronghold to disarm the opposition. Unspecified humanitarian groups can help with the exodus of civilians from Benghazi, Saadi Gadhafi said.

In a radio address aired on Libyan state TV, Gadhafi criticized residents of Benghazi and called them “traitors” for seeking help from outsiders.

Along with France, Britain and the United States voted for the resolution, which condemns the “gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and summary executions.”

It details enforcement of an arms embargo against Libya, the freezing of assets and a ban on most flights.

“The United States stands with the Libyan people in support of their universal rights,” said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice.

The abstentions came from China, Russia, Germany, India, and Brazil. Germany said it was concerned about a protracted military conflict. China said it opposes the use of armed force in international relations.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/03/18/libya.civil.war/index.html

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