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Latest On Libya; Gadhafi Forces To Stand Down?

There were celebrations in Benghazi, Libya, last night when people heard that the U.N. Security Council had authorized the use of military force against the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
Patrick Baz
AFP/Getty Images
There were celebrations in Benghazi, Libya, last night when people heard that the U.N. Security Council had authorized the use of military force against the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

While the crisis in Japan continues, the world's eyes are turning back toward Libya today. As we reported, the U.N. Security Council has given the U.S. and its allies the OK to use "all necessary measures" to protect the Libyan people from forces loyal to the man who has run their nation for more than 40 years, Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

For his part, Gadhafi vowed Thursday that there will be "no mercy or compassion" for the people in Benghazi, the eastern Libyan city from which opposition leaders in recent weeks have been running their effort to topple the Gadhafi regime. Then today, in the wake of the Security Council vote, his foreign minister said there would be an immediate cease fire.

We'll follow Friday's developments as they happen. This post will automatically refresh every 30 minutes, or sooner if we jump in to add more news.

Update at 7:06 p.m. ET: Pause:

We are going to pause the live blog right now. However, we will be here tomorrow morning and if something big happens, we will of course pop back into the blog.

Update at 5:57 p.m. ET: Gadhafi Forces Advancing Toward Benghazi:

Quoting an unnamed U.S. national security official, Reuters reports that Gadhafi's forces have continued to move toward the eastern rebel-stronghold of Benghazi.

The troop movements, said the official, were "purposeful."

Update at 5:51 p.m. ET: Ambassador Rice Says Gadhafi Facing Swift Consequences:

In an interview with CNN, the United States Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said Moammar Gadhafi is facing "swift and sure consequences including military action" if he ignored the demands for a ceasefire.

She said that the advance of Gadhafi's forces toward Benghazi violated the U.N. Security Council resolution.

Update At 5:46 p.m. ET: Full Text Of President's Statement:

The White House has released the full text of President Obama's statement about the situation in Libya. This is part of the speech is where the president justifies military action against Gadhafi:

Now, here is why this matters to us. Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners. The calls of the Libyan people for help would go unanswered. The democratic values that we stand for would be overrun. Moreover, the words of the international community would be rendered hollow.

Update At 5:19 p.m. ET: Libya Says It Has Halted Attacks:

Libya's deputy foreign minister Khalid Kaim says there has been "no bombardment of any kind" by government forces since Libya announced a ceasefire, reports Reuters.

Earlier, we cited multiple reports that bombing had continued in cities like Misrata.

Update at 4:50 p.m. ET: The End Game For Gadhafi?

It's important to note that Moammar Gadhafi has been in power longer than other Arab leader. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt since 1981. Gadhafi came into power after a coup in 1969. In a long, think-piece the Christian Science Monitor asks, "Is this the end for Gadhafi?"

The answer they come up with is "probably," but he won't give up easily. They report that the UN resolution has given the opposition hope and Paul Sullivan, a Libya expert, they talk to says this is the end game. Here are two paragraphs from the piece:

"I was on the way to pick up some guns in Egypt when the UN voted," says an elderly doctor who's working with the rebels. "I turned my car around and came straight back to Benghazi. It looks like we have far more powerful help now."

Qaddafi, too, is feeling the combined power of the Arab world and multinational sanctions, says Professor Sullivan. "I think this is the end game for Muammar Qaddafi."

Update at 4:40 p.m. ET: When To Intervene?

We just added a post here in which retired Gen. Wesley Clark and former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter express different views on whether the U.S. and its allies should be taking action against some other governments (in Bahrain and Yemen, for example) that they're now taking against Libya.

Update at 3:58 p.m. ET: Navy Deploying Units Early:

The Virginian-Pilot reports that the Navy is deploying tactical ships to the Mediterranean sea next week in case they are needed for action in Libya:

The amphibious assault ship Bataan, amphibious transport dock ship Mesa Verde and the dock landing ship Whidbey Island will depart March 23, the Navy announced today. ...

The ready group and its Marines are prepared to support a variety of missions, the Navy said in a news release, including forward naval presence, maritime security operations, theater security cooperation, humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Update at 3:30 p.m. ET: For Britain, Is Libya Another Iraq?

British Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the House of Commons earlier today and got to the grain. The Financial Times reports:

"Is this going to be another Iraq? The answer is very clearly no," the prime minister said. ...

And the prime minister was not celebrating his diplomatic coup: Iraq showed the capacity for neat military strategies to quickly unravel.

His assignment of RAF Tornados and Typhoons to the region is the first time he has put British lives on the line in this way. While he inherited Afghanistan, this is David Cameron's war and the mood in Downing Street was sombre.

The potential for the loss of British aircrews is obvious. But the question hanging over Westminster on Friday was what would happen if air power alone did not stop carnage on the ground.

Update at 2:53 p.m. ET: Clinton To Paris On Saturday:

One more small detail from the President's statement: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Paris to discuss the Libyan crisis with other world leaders. Reuters has more:

Clinton will join key European leaders and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the next steps on Libya following the U.N. Security Council's adoption of a resolution permitting a "no fly zone" and other steps to protect rebels from the forces of leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Update at 2:23 p.m. ET: President Obama Gives Gadhafi One More Warning:

In an address at the White House, President Barack Obama said Col. Moammar Gadhafi "has lost the confidence of his own people." Kadhafi, the president said, had ample warning, yet he "chose to ignore the will of his people and of the international community. There should be no doubt about his intentions." Kadhafi, he said, "chose the path of brutal repression."

The president said that the situation in Libya matters to the U.S. because if Gadhafi is left "unchecked, he could commit atrocities against his people." And destabilize the region.

He said that Gadhafi now has a choice: He needs to stop "all attacks;" retreat from Beghazi and other Eastern cities; reconnect water, gas and electricity; and allow humanitarian aide to pass.

The terms, the president said, are "not negotiable." And if Gadhafi doesn't comply, he will face military action.

The president also added that the U.S. will not deploy ground troops in Libya. He said the U.S. will use "no force beyond a well defined goal."

The president said that the U.S. is acting as part of an international coalition and said that this is how the international community should act; they should "share the responsibility and cost of enforcing" the no-fly zone.

The president said that the Libyan people have a "right to decide their own way."

"Change," he said, "will not and cannot be imposed by us or any foreign power. It will be driven by the people of the Arab world."

Update at 1:56 p.m. ET: Setting Up A Command Center:

The Guardian reports that British RAF Tornado and Typhoon "ground attack jets are expected to fly to bases in the Mediterranean tomorrow." They add:

Britain is also expected tomorrow to set up a joint command centre with the US and France to coordinate operations which could include a number of countries, including Canada and Denmark.

Update at 1:05 p.m. ET. "Detailed Planning" Underway For Any Military Missions:

"With respect to Libya, we are in detailed planning for a wide variety of contingencies from NATO," Admiral James Stavridis, supreme commander of NATO and head of US European Command, says on his Facebook page. (H/T to NPR's Tom Bowman.)

Update at 12:27 p.m. ET: On Explosions In Tripoli:

NPR's David Greene, who's in Tripoli, reports that neither he nor producer Jim Wildman have heard explosions. Earlier, Al Jazeera reported loud explosions were heard West of the capital city.

Update at 11:47 a.m. ET. Obama To Speak At 2 p.m. ET:

The White House just announced that President Obama will meet with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders at 12:30 p.m. ET in the situation room at the White House to discuss the situation in Libya. He's then scheduled to address the nation at 2 p.m. ET.

Update at 11:45 a.m. ET. Italy To "Participate Actively" In No-Fly Zone Enforcement; Allow Bases To Be Used:

From Rome, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli tells us that Italy's defense and foreign ministers say Italy will "participate actively" in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya and that seven Italian bases will be available for use by U.S., U.K. and other fighters.

Update at 11:25 a.m. ET. Explosions Reported Near Tripoli:

Reports continue to come in about fighting that continues despite the Gadhafi regime's declaration of an immediate cease fire"

" Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught in Tripoli reports that a series of loud explosions have been heard coming from west of the capital. It is unclear what has caused them."

Update at 11:14 a.m. ET: The Telegraph notes Clinton says the U.S. wants to see Gadhafi's fighters ' physically move away from the eastern, rebel-held regions of Libya' controlled by the rebels. She's not certain the Libyan government ceasefire announcement is 'tied to anything resembling a ceasefire'.

Update at 11:00 a.m. ET: Clinton Says Gadhafi Must Go:Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U.S. is not impressed by words and that the Libyan government must demonstrate that it's observing a ceasefire.

Update at 9:57 a.m. ET. "He Is Killing People Left And Right. There Is No Cease Fire":

CNN has a man on the phone who says he's in the western Libyan city of Misrata. According to him, Gadhafi's forces continue to shell the city despite the regime's announcement of an immediate cease fire. "He is killing people left and right. There is no cease fire," the man just told the news network. This supports the earlier report (via Al Arabiya and Reuters) of a doctor who said the city is still under attack.

Update at 9:50 a.m. ET. Shelling Continues In Misrata, Doctor Says:

Reuters reports that Al Arabiya television has been told by a doctor in the Libyan city of Misrata that Gadhafi's forces are still shelling the city and that at least 25 people have been killed.

Update at 9:35 a.m. ET. Judge Gadhafi By His Actions, Not His Words, Cameron Says:

British Prime Minister "David Cameron tells the BBC [that] Col. Gaddafi will be judged by his deeds not his words after the announcement from the regime of an immediate ceasefire." (NPR follows Associated Press style on the spelling of Gadhafi; the BBC does not.)

Update at 9:25 a.m. ET. Is Gadhafi Trying To Buy Time?

Here is how Al-Jazeera is reporting the news that the Gadhafi regime has agreed to stop its military operations aimed at opposition forces:

"Moussa Koussa, the Libyan foreign secretary, said his government was interested in protecting all civilians and foreigners in a statement televised on Friday. 'We decided on an immediate ceasefire and on an immediate stop to all military operations,' he said, adding '[Libya] takes great interest in protecting civilians.'

"Koussa said because his country was a member of the United Nations it is 'obliged to accept to UN Secutiry Council's resolutions.' Anita McNaught, Al-Jazeera's correspondent in Tripoli, said 'This is a very carefully crafted statement, very deliberate, almost forensic. Clearly the Libyans have been pouring over their United Nations charters to decide which bits to disagree with and on the whole they can't find very much.

" 'My hunch is that it is an effort to buy time because the Libyans I think have been taken completely by surprise by this sudden resurgence of an [international] consensus on action.' "

Update at 9:10 a.m. ET. But Fighting Continues?

Though Libya's foreign minister has said a cease fire will go into effect immediately, CNN's Nic Robertson says reports are coming in from eastern Libya that battles continue.

Update at 8:53 a.m. ET. Gadhafi's Military Operations To Stop Immediately?

More on the news that the Gadhafi regime says it will immediately stop its military operations (which NPR's Jim Wildman alerted us to earlier):

CNN's Nic Robertson just said that Libya's foreign minister told reporters that all military operations will immediately cease.

The regime appears to "be recognizing the terms" of the U.N. no-fly zone resolution that allows the U.S. and its allies to take military action against Gadhafi's forces, Robertson added. But it remains to be seen whether the regime follows through on this pledge.

Update at 8:47 a.m. ET. More On The Cease Fire Announcement:

Reuters just moved this alert:

"Libya has decided to halt all military operations to protect civilians in line with U.N. no-fly decision [says the Gadhafi regime's] foreign minister."

Update at 8:45 a.m. ET. Cease Fire?

From Tripoli, NPR producer Jim Wildman just alerted us that Libya's foreign minister says the regime has agreed to a cease-fire. We'll pass along more information as soon as it's available.

Update at 8 a.m. ET. Cameron Says West Will Not Choose Libya's Future Government:

Speaking to parliament a short time ago, British Prime Minister David Cameron "insisted the action was to protect civilians in Libya and avert a humanitarian crisis, not to choose the future government of the country," The Guardian writes.

Update at 7:45 a.m. ET. Gadhafi's Air Force Grounded By Monday?

"Even before the Security Council's 10-0 vote," The Associated Press reports, "the Obama administration readied plans to enforce the no-fly zone, with congressional officials describing a closed-door briefing in which the administration said it could ground Gadhafi's air force by Sunday or Monday. The effort likely will involve jet fighters, bombers and surveillance aircraft, officials said, and the U.S. is keen to have Arab countries such as Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates participate in the operation."

7:30 a.m. ET. Air Strikes Could Happen At Any Time:

On Morning Edition, NPR's Tom Gjelten told guest host Linda Wertheimer that air strikes could happen "any time" now. "We could very well see some strikes [aimed at Gadhafi's forces] before the day is out," he said.

Also on Morning Edition, NPR's David Greene reported from Tripoli on the threats Gadhafi made last night about his forces going from house-to-house in Benghazi to take revenge on the rebels. He also said that air strikes might first target Gadhafi's tanks and air defenses. Meanwhile, he said, it is "eerily calm" in the Libyan capital.

The New York Times adds that "French officials said on Friday that military action would start soon. News reports said British and French warplanes would spearhead the attack."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Korva Coleman is a newscaster for NPR.