March 18, 2011
British and French leaders began preparing for possible air strikes against Libya after a United Nations vote cleared the way for the first Western military action against an Arab country since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament in London today that the U.K. would “in the coming hours” deploy Tornado and Typhoon warplanes, air-to-air refuelling craft and surveillance aircraft to enforce the UN’s no-fly zone aimed at Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
“There will be a clear statement later today setting out what we now expect from Colonel Qaddafi,” Cameron said, adding that he’ll attend a meeting in Paris tomorrow hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy with the Arab League. France would join any military operation against Libya, government spokesman Francois Baroin told RTL radio.
Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, signaled after the UN resolution that government troops won’t try to enter the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, though they will encircle it, backing away from earlier threats, Agence France-Presse reported. Qaddafi had said he’d “destroy” the opposition movement, recapture Benghazi, a city of 1 million people, and show “no mercy” to “traitors” who don’t surrender.