The United Nations Security Council has lent its support to Libyan rebels fighting the country's ruler, Moammar Gadhafi, by voting in favor of a no-fly zone over the country.
The United Nations has voted in support of Libyan rebels
The United Nations Security Council has voted in favor of a no-fly zone over Libya. Ten Council members supported the resolution, with five abstentions including Germany, China and Russia.
"This resolution demands an immediate ceasefire and a complete end to violence and attacks against civilians," said the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, immediately after the vote.
"Responding to the Libyan people and the League of Arab States, the Security Council has authorized the use of force, including enforcement of a no-fly zone to protect civilians and civilian areas targeted by Colonel Gadhafi, his intelligence and security forces and his mercenaries."
The European Union quickly welcomed the resolution, saying "there was no time to waste" in enforcing it. In a joint statement, EU president Herman Van Rompuy and foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton fully endorsed "the UN demand for a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians" in Libya.
The measure got up on the back of strong support from Britain, France and the United States. The resolution called for "all necessary measures short of an occupation force to protect civilians under threat of attack, including in Benghazi."
The initial draft resolution called on Arab nations to "cooperate" in the implementation of the no-fly zone and other measures.
French diplomatic sources have said military action could come within hours of the UN vote, and would include air forces from France and Britain. The UK and US governments have remained cool, however, on when military action could begin.
Anti-Gadhafi forces had appealed for international assistance
It was hoped a no-fly zone would negate the military superiority of Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi, who has defiantly held on to power despite a wellspring of unrest in his country and calls from the international community for him to give up power.
Germany said after the UN resolution it had abstained from the vote because it saw "considerable dangers and risks" in military action against Muommar Gadhafi."
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle confirmed in a statement that German troops "will not take part in a military operation in Libya."
Meanwhile, on the ground, there were reports that Gadhafi's troops had managed to push through rebel-held areas and were now positioned on the outskirts of the key eastern city of Benghazi. A US State Department official said the regime's forces were making "quick" advances thanks to their superior military power.
Gadhafi had earlier said that his forces would fight a "decisive battle" to retake Benghazi. This comes after his troops had launched a major offensive on Ajdabiya to the south of Benghazi. A hospital official there said at least 30 people had been killed and at least 80 others wounded since Tuesday.
The head of the rebel Libyan National Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, told Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera that anti-Gadhafi forces would stand firm in the face of the threats by the long-time Libyan leader.
"We stand on firm ground. We will not be intimidated by these lies and claims," he said. "We will not settle for anything but liberation for this country's people from this regime."
Abdel Jalil went on to welcome any international involvement in the ongoing conflict.
"We welcome any decision coming from the international community because of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, and to stop this genocide, to stop this ruler who wants to govern by force or to kill his own people," he said.
"A no-fly zone will not be enough, there have to be air strikes of some strategic areas and ... entry on the ground," he said.
Author: Darren Mara (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nicole Goebel