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French Official Says Libyan Airspace 'Under Control'

VOA News March 25, 2011

The French defense chief says Libya's airspace is "under control" as of Friday, and that he expects allied military operations to last weeks and "hopefully" not months.

Admiral Edouard Guillaud spoke a day after NATO agreed to assume command of the no-fly zone over Libya.

Guillaud told France-Info radio Friday that French warplanes struck targets near the eastern city of Ajdabiya overnight. He said forces are making every effort not to injure or kill civilians with the airstrikes aimed at forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Britain has also confirmed carrying out airstrikes overnight in the same area.

Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the move to take command of the no-fly zone and said a decision on NATO assuming broader authority for the military effort in Libya could come within days. The NATO chief said that for now "there will still be a coalition operation and a NATO operation."

Turkey - which is NATO's sole Muslim member - agreed to the plan Thursday after a four-way telephone conference between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Turkish, French and British counterparts. Ankara had sought assurances that the NATO operation would be limited and would avoid casualties among Muslim civilians.

Also Thursday, the U.S. and France announced that the United Arab Emirates will contribute 12 planes to enforce the no-fly zone, becoming the second Arab country after Qatar to join the effort. Qatar is expected to begin flying air patrols over Libya within the next few days.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday there is no evidence to support Libyan assertions that it is complying with U.N. Security Council demands for an immediate ceasefire. The U.N. chief said he continues to have serious concerns about the protection of civilians, human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.

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