Moammar Qaddafi pledged an imminent assault on rebel stronghold Benghazi March 18. “The decision has been taken. Prepare yourselves. We will arrive tonight,” the strongman said on state television. “We will chase the traitors from Benghazi. Destroy their fortifications. Show them no mercy. The world needs to see Benghazi free.” Invoking again his claims that al-Qaeda is behind the rebellion, Qaddafi said “we will hunt down the miscreants and bearded ones that have destroyed out country and we will punish them without mercy.” (AFP, March 18)
Qaddafi’s bluster came a day after the UN Security Council authorized military strikes on Qaddafi’s forces. Resolution 1973/2011 allows states wide latitude to take “all necessary measures”—short of an occupation force—to protect civilians within Libya. Permanent council members China and Russia both abstained along with Germany, while the US, Britain, and France voted in favor, along with Lebanon.
French government spokesman Francois Baroin said after the vote that the strikes will come “rapidly… within a few hours,” adding that Paris “will participate” in operations. However, the UK and US played down the prospect of immediate action, with NATO heads to meet to discuss their options. (Radio Australia, March 18; The Guardian, March 17)
See our last post on the Libyan crisis.