France Starts Air Strikes in Libya to Counter Gaddafi Agreession

World | March 19, 2011, Saturday // 19:34|  views

A French Rafale fighter plane taking off from military base Saint-Dizier, France, 19 March 2011. The French plane fired the first shot in Libya at 1645 GMT and destroyed its target. Photo by EPA/BGNES

A French plane has fired the first shots in Libya as enforcement of the UN-mandated no-fly zone begins.

The target was a military vehicle, the French defence ministry said, as cited by BBC.

It came hours after Western and Arab leaders met in Paris to agree a course of action to confront Col Gaddafi.

The French plane fired the first shot in Libya at 1645 GMT and destroyed its target, according to a military spokesman.

French planes also flew reconnaissance missions over "all Libyan territory", French military sources said earlier.

Around 20 French aircraft were involved in Saturday's operation, a defence ministry official told the Reuters news agency.

Other air forces and navies are expected to join the French.

"Our air force will oppose any aggression by Colonel Gaddafi against the population of Benghazi," said Sarkozy, speaking after an international, top-level meeting in Paris over the Libyan crisis."As of now, our aircraft are preventing planes from attacking the town," he said. "As of now, our aircraft are prepared to intervene against tanks."

Sarkozy said Gaddafi still has time to stop its activities. But he said that "if there's not an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of the forces that have been attacking civilian populations in the last few weeks, our countries will have recourse to military means."

Sarkozy said Libya's population "must not be deprived of its rights by violence and terror."

"There is still time for Colonel Gadhafi to avoid the worst, by complying immediately and unreservedly with all the demands of the international community. The doors of diplomacy will open once again when the aggression stops."

Asked whether the decision to carry out bombing against Libyan forces could begin immediately after Saturday's session ends, a senior US State Department official told CNN:

"In terms of when the bombing starts, I'll leave that for others to lay out at the appropriate time."

"Everybody recognizes the urgency," he said.

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Tags: UN Security Council, UN, canada, Italy, Germany, France, Britain, UK, USA, Benghazi, rebels, Gaddafi, Muammar, no-fly zone, Libya, military action, Paris, summit, NATO, French, Libyan, Nicolas, Sarkozy, France


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