UN Approves Military Force; Gaddafi Closes On Rebels

French diplomatic sources said action could follow within hours, and could include France, Britain and possibly the United States and one or more Arab states. A U.S. military official said no immediate U.S. action was expected.

Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam said on Friday that Libya was “not afraid” of the U.N. move, Al Arabiya television reported.

Time was running short for Benghazi, the eastern city that has been at the heart of Libya’s month-old revolt.

But Gaddafi’s troops did not fulfil his threat to overrun the rebel base overnight after their rapid counter-offensive brought them to within 100 km (60 miles) of the eastern city.

“We will come. House by house, room by room,” Gaddafi said in a radio address to Benghazi late on Thursday.

Al Jazeera television showed thousands of people listening to the speech in a central Benghazi square, then erupting in celebration after the U.N. vote, waving anti-Gaddafi tricolours and chanting defiance of the man who has ruled for four decades.

Fireworks burst over the city and gunfire rang out.

The U.N. Security Council, meeting in emergency session, passed a resolution endorsing a no-fly zone. It also authorised “all necessary measures” — code for military action — to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s forces.

While other countries or NATO may play roles in military action, U.S. officials expect the United States with its extensive air and sea forces to do the heavy lifting in a campaign likely to include air strikes on tanks and artillery.

Gaddafi warned Benghazi residents that only those who laid down their arms before his advancing troops would be spared the vengeance awaiting “rats and dogs”.

“It’s over. The issue has been decided,” Gaddafi said. “We are coming tonight … We will find you in your closets.

“We will have no mercy and no pity.”

AIR STRIKES

Residents said the Libyan air force unleashed three air raids on the city of 670,000 on Thursday and there was fierce fighting along the Mediterranean coastal highway.

Ten of the Council’s 15 member states voted in favour of the resolution, while Russia, China and Germany were among the five that abstained. The resolution was co-sponsored by France, Britain, Lebanon and the United States.

Apart from military action, it expands sanctions against Gaddafi and associates. Among firms whose assets it orders frozen are the Libyan National Oil Corp and the central bank.”Reuters