French jets start enforcing no-fly zone in Libya

A parachute is ejected from a Libyan jet bomber as it crashes after being hit over Benghazi, March 19, 2011.

From Steven Erlanger and David Kirkpatrick, the New York Times:  American, European and Arab leaders began the largest international military intervention in the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq on Saturday, in an effort to stop Col. Muammer el-Qaddafi’s war on the Libyan opposition.

Leaders meeting in Paris on Saturday afternoon said direct strikes against Libyan government forces, as approved by the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, would begin within hours. And President Nicolas Sarkozy said French warplanes had already begun enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya, conducting reconnaissance missions and preparing to intercept any Libyan military aircraft. …

Even as Colonel Qaddafi seemed to be trying to wait out the West, as he has often before, Mr. Sarkozy announced that French and allied warplanes were already in the skies over Libya.

"Right now our planes are blocking airstrikes on the city," Mr. Sarkozy said, referring to Benghazi. "French planes are ready to act against armored vehicles that would be threatening unarmed civilians.”

He accused Mr. Qaddafi of “totally ignoring” both the Security Council’s demands for a cease-fire and his own promises to abide by one. But he added: "There is still time for Colonel Qaddafi to avoid the worst by complying with the U.N. resolution. The doors of diplomacy will open again when the fighting has stopped. …”

In Paris, the summit meeting was held over lunch at the Élysée Palace, and it included prime ministers or foreign ministers from Britain, Canada, Germany, Norway, Italy, Qatar, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Belgium, Spain and the United States, in the person of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa, a candidate for the Egyptian presidency, was also there, along with the incoming head of the league, Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari. Also attending were European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  (photo: Getty)

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