Qaddafi Says Arming Libyans To Face Western Attacks
Last updated (GMT/UTC): 19.03.2011 22:52
Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi says North Africa and the Mediterranean have been turned into a "real battlefield" following the start of a multinational air campaign against his forces to enforce a United Nations-mandated no-fly zone.
Qaddafi was also quoted as saying arms depots were being opened so Libyans can defend the country.
The statement was issued after French warplanes earlier on March 19 started the assault on Qaddafi's forces with a series of air strikes, and U.S. and British forces launched more than 110 missiles at targets in Libya.
President Barack Obama has announced that he has authorized U.S. forces to begin what he called a "limited action" in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians.
The action came after Western and Arab leaders met in Paris to agree how to enforce a UN resolution allowing "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from Qaddafi's forces.
France's military said its warplanes destroyed several tanks and armored vehicles of Qaddafi's forces.
The Pentagon said 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from both U.S. and British ships and submarines struck 20 air-defense sites, as enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya gets under way.
Libyan state media, meanwhile, reported that Western warplanes bombed civilian targets in Tripoli and fuel storage tanks that supplied the rebel-held city of Misrata, east of the capital, causing casualties.
Reports said hundreds of Qaddafi supporters rallied outside his residence in a Tripoli suburb in an apparent bid to protect it from air strikes.
Hundreds of kilometers to the east, bombardment by artillery, rockets, and air strikes targeted the rebel city of Benghazi, with Tripoli saying its forces were acting only in self-defense against rebel attacks.
Earlier on March 19, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said allied air forces had gone into action over Libya to prevent Qaddafi's forces from attacking Benghazi.
Speaking after European, U.S., and Arab leaders met in Paris to discuss arrangements for military action against Libya, Sarkozy said the international community was intervening to stop Qaddafi's "murderous madness."
In a joint declaration, the participants demanded that Qaddafi halt all military action and allow humanitarian aid into the country.
France's partners such as Canada, Denmark, and the United States have reportedly started to deploy aircraft at air bases in the region, including Italy.
Meanwhile, thousands of people were reported to be fleeing eastward from Benghazi as government troops attacked the city's western suburbs.
A rebel spokesman said forces loyal to Qaddafi had advanced into the suburbs from the west amid sustained shelling on March 19.
The Libyan government says its forces are acting only in self-defense against rebel attacks and denied breaking the unilateral cease-fire.
Qaddafi To World: 'You Have No Right'
In letters read out by government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim, Qaddafi warned the international community against intervention.
"Libya is not yours. Libya is for the Libyans. The Secretary Council resolution is invalid," he said in a letter addressed to French and British leaders and UN chief Ban.
"This is injustice, it's a clear aggression, and it's uncalculated risk for its consequences on the Mediterranean and Europe," the letter continued.
"You have no right never, you have no right ever to intervene in our internal affairs, who gave you the right to intervene in our internal affairs? You will regret it if you take the step towards intervening in our internal affairs."
Qaddafi's letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, however, had a slightly more conciliatory tone. He said Libya was fighting against Al-Qaeda forces.
"What would you do if you find them controlling American cities with the power of weapons? Tell me how would you behave so I follow your example," that letter said.
On March 18, U.S. officials accused Qaddafi's forces of already violating the new UN Security Council resolution that calls for an immediate cease-fire in the Libyan conflict.
President Obama warned that Qaddafi faces international military action if he fails to comply with the UN resolution and pull back his forces from Benghazi and other cities.
"Let me be clear: these terms are not negotiable. These terms are not subject to negotiation," Obama said. "If Qaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action."
Obama said the United States would not deploy ground forces in Libya, and added that Washington was also "not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal -- specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya."
compiled from agency reports
Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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