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March 18, 2011 – A United Nations resolution authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya passed a Security Council vote Thursday paving the way for international military action against forces led by Muammar Gaddafi. The vote came hours after Gaddafi declared “no mercy” in his government’s siege on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
Seemingly stalled in recent days, the resolution cleared the council 10-0. Veto holders Russia and China abstained, as did Germany, India, and Brazil. The measure also calls for “the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance” to the Libyan people as well as an immediate cease-fire. Military action could begin within a few hours, according to a French diplomatic source, and British forces are reportedly on stand-by.
The United States urged the council to take steps beyond the mandate of a no-fly zone, but it is unclear what role the U.S. will play. Several U.S Navy ships are on station off the Libyan coast.
A defiant Gaddafi said the Security Council “has no mandate,” adding “if the world is crazy, we will be crazy too.”
Crowds gathered in Benghazi heard Gaddafi’s threats, broadcast on state television, then cheered upon learning of the U.N. resolution. The rebels have pleaded for international assistance in their struggle against the dictator. The U.N. vote is, at the least, a moral victory.
In the past week, government forces have prevailed in a counter-offensive that has succeeded in re-capturing several cities held by the insurgents. Benghazi, seen as the rebel capital, came under air and artillery bombardment on Thursday, which apparently prompted the U.N. response.
Shortly after the United Nations decision, Gaddafi announced a “cease-fire” sending crowds of happy Libyans’ to the streets of Benghazi to celebrate the decision.