Treading with caution on the question of imposing a no-fly zone over Libyan territory, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to voice unambiguous support for the move. “It is important that this not be an American or a NATO or a European effort; it needs to be an international one,” she said.

While talk of a no-fly zone has been ongoing in Washington policy circles, the Obama administration has yet to commit itself to it. She said in media interviews this week a U.N. decision would be “very important” as a first step.

Touching upon the position of other nations, Ms. Clinton said, “The British and French Governments are going to the U.N. with a draft resolution that would authorise international action... The Gulf countries put out a statement yesterday saying that they would support a no-fly zone, and yesterday too, the Arab League... said [it] would not object to that.”

Ms. Clinton appeared to accord particular significance to Gulf States coming on board the plan. “We were very pleased that the Gulf States and the Arab League, which before had not supported any kind of action, have now said that they could so if the United Nations agrees.”

Asked pointedly whether the U.S. would support the no-fly zone per se, she said the U.S. would support the efforts that were being made, because “we think that the people of Libya themselves have to be supported... and we know how difficult this struggle is.”

In that context Ms. Clinton reiterated that the security situation in Libya had deteriorated and there was a loss of legitimacy of Muammar Qadhafi. “We believe that he has totally given up any legitimacy to power. When a leader turns against his own people, that is the end.”

Yet Ms. Clinton emphasised, as she had done earlier, the hope for a peaceful transition of power in Libya. The lack of clarity on which part of the country was being controlled by rebel forces and which parts Qadhafi continued to govern appeared to be stalling the implementation of the next course of action.