French jets pound Libyan city

UN-backed military actions against Gadhafi forces begin

French jets pound Libyan city

 A French Defence Ministry official said “a number of tanks and armoured vehicles” were destroyed in the region of Benghazi, with initial action focusing on stopping Gadhafi’s forces from advancing on the rebels’ eastern stronghold.

Gadhafi’s troops pushed into the outskirts of Benghazi on Saturday after a unilateral ceasefire declared by his government failed to materialise, prompting leaders meeting in Paris on Saturday to announce the start of military intervention.

“Those taking part agreed to put in place all necessary means, especially military, to enforce the decisions of the United Nations Security Council,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after meeting Western and Arab leaders. Sarkozy said an operation supported by France, Britain, the United States and Canada, and backed by Arab nations, would continue unless the Libyan leader ceased fire. “Colonel Gadhafi has made this happen,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters after the meeting. “We cannot allow the slaughter of civilians to continue.” Some analysts have questioned the strategy for the military intervention, fearing Western forces might be sucked into a long civil war despite their current insistence they have no plans to send ground troops to Libya.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggested that outside powers hoped their intervention would be enough to turn the tide against Gadhafi and allow Libyans to force him out. “It is our belief that if Gadhafi loses the capacity to enforce his will through vastly superior armed forces, he simply will not be able to sustain his grip on the country,” Harper added.

Gadhafi has said Western powers had no right to intervene. “This is injustice, this is clear aggression,” government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim quoted Gadhafi’s letter to France, Britain and the United Nations. 

The Libyan Government blamed the rebels, who it says are members of al-Qaeda, for breaking a ceasefire around Benghazi.

In Tripoli, several thousand people gathered at the Bab al-Aziziyah palace, Gadhafi’s compound that was bombed by US warplanes in 1986, to show their support. “There are 5,000 tribesmen that are preparing to come here to fight with our leader. They better not try to attack our country,” said farmer Mahmoud el-Mansouri.

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