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Updated: March 19, 2011 21:01 IST

World leaders announce military action in Libya

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, welcomes EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton before a crisis summit on Libya at the Elysee palace in Paris, on Saturday. Photo: AP.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, welcomes EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton before a crisis summit on Libya at the Elysee palace in Paris, on Saturday. Photo: AP.

Mr. Sarkozy said "our determination is total."

Top officials from the United States, Europe and the Arab world have announced immediate military action to protect civilians amid combat between Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi’s forces and rebel fighters.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after an emergency summit in Paris on Saturday that France has already taken military action against Libya.

Mr. Sarkozy said “our determination is total.”

Libyan troops advance, as world leaders mull military options

Earlier reports said troops loyal to Muammar Qaddafi pushed into the eastern rebel—stronghold of Benghazi today as world leaders mulled military options against the embattled leader who defied a global demand for an immediate ceasefire, .

Benghazi, which has been the capital of the oppositions’ National Council, came under sustained attack from ground and air with explosions rocking the city despite a ceasefire announced by the Qaddafi regime, prompting a warning by the U.S. that the Libyan leader was violating the truce.

World leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are being hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a meeting in Paris to discuss military action against Col. Qaddafi’s forces in Libya.

Two unidentified jets carried out bombing raids on the Libya’s second largest city and a bastion of opposition after reports of night long trading of gunfire, raising anew possibility of military action by the U.S. and its allies.

A BBC reporter in the city said that one of the attacking aircraft had been downed by ground fire and was flying inspite of a UN no—fly resolution.

Col. Qaddafi’s opponents appealed to the international community to halt the bombardment by the Libyan jets amid reports that people were fleeing the city eastwards as the fighting escalated.

“Now there is a bombardment by artillery and rockets on all districts of Benghazi,” rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera television.

“There will be a catastrophe if the international community does not implement the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council,” he warned.

While the rebels claimed that Col. Qaddafi’s forces were not holding to their unilateral ceasefire and continuing their advance on the town, the Libyan government said that its forces had stopped their offensive, short of the city.

The BBC quoted Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaaim as claiming that the government forces were sticking to the ceasefire.

“The armed forces are now located outside the city of Benghazi and we have no intention of entering,” Mr. Kaaim told reporters.

Blaming the rebels for continuing their attacks on Col. Qaddafi’s forces, the Libyan minister called for immediate deployment of foreign observers from Turkey and China, saying otherwise “the accusation and counter—accusation will not stop.”

Al Jazeera said contrary to the claims by the rebels, Col. Qaddafi’s forces were reported to be just 50 kilometers from Benghazi towards the south of the city.

At the U.N., Susan Rice, the U.S. envoy to the world body, accused Col. Qaddafi’s forces of violating the truce announced by them.

“Qaddafi is violating the ceasefire imposed by the U.N. Security Council resolution,” she said, adding “We don’t believe the military action has stopped.”

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