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LIBYA: Arab states could impose a no-fly zone on Libya

March 2, 2011 | 11:44 am

The League of Arab States would not rule out imposing a no-fly zone on Libya in conjunction with the African Union if fighting in Libya failed to abate, Reuters news agency reported Wednesday.

“The Arab League will not stand with its hands tied while the blood of the brotherly Libyan people is spilt,” Reuters quoted Amr Moussa, secretary general for the organization commonly known as the Arab League, as saying.

The group, which promotes collaboration among Arab nations and works to protect their independence and sovereignty, has already suspended the membership of Moammar Kadafi’s government in protest of the Libyan leader’s crackdown on protesters who want Kadafi to cede power and step down, Reuters said.

Imposition of a no-fly zone is viewed by many as the only way to cripple Kadafi’s ability to use air power to crush his opponents, who are said to have far fewer weapons and defense capabilities than government forces.

On Wednesday, CNN reported that its news crew witnessed Libyan aircraft drop two bombs in the area of Port Brega, an eastern town that is home to a key oil facility.

“Later, a military aircraft dropped a third bomb,” the television news channel reported. “People on the ground shot and threw whatever they could at the aircraft, then fled.”

It was not clear whether there were any casualties from the bombing, CNN said.

Some comments posted on Twitter and other social network sites expressed hope that the aerial assault might ratchet up enthusiasm for an internationally imposed no-fly zone.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said earlier this week that the international body was “looking at all options,” including the imposition of a no-fly zone.

While Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has described the no-fly zone option as “an extraordinarily complex operation," as reported by CNN, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was keen to give Libyans “the tools to prevent the slaughter of innocents on Libyan streets."

"I believe that the global community cannot be on the sidelines while airplanes are allowed to bomb and strafe,” CNN quoted Kerry as saying. “A no-fly zone is not a long-term proposition, assuming the outcome is what all desire, and I believe that we ought to be ready to implement it as necessary.”

The U.N. has already approved the imposition of sanctions on Libya, authorizing an arms embargo and asset freeze against Kadafi’s regime.

-- Ann M. Simmons