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Establishing A No-Fly Zone Over Gadhafi's Defiance

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

NPR's Tom Gjelten has been tracking the military campaign by the international coalition and he's in the studio with the latest. Hi, Tom.

TOM GJELTEN: Good morning, Liane.

HANSEN: Hearing now that warplanes are striking Gadhafi ground forces, does this represent an escalation in the coalition's attacks?

GJELTEN: So, now we apparently are moving to the second phase, which involves actual fighter jets flying over Libyan territory, taking out both anti-aircraft installations and, it appears, some ground forces as well or some tanks. We don't know exactly what was hit this morning.

HANSEN: And what will be the next phase?

GJELTEN: Well, this will continue now for a while. I think what you will gradually see once the air defense, Gadhafi's air defense system is degraded, you will see more of an emphasis on the actual military assets of Gadhafi. That would be command and control headquarters, that would be heavy artillery, you know, his actual weapon systems. And this could unfold over a few days.

HANSEN: And is there an end game here?

GJELTEN: But it's not clear here how they expect this to happen. The closest thing to a strategy seems to be something that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday. When asked about this in a press conference, she did not say that the coalition was going to take out Gadhafi, she spoke instead about the conditions on the ground that would be created as a result of this campaign.

HANSEN: The conditions that will unfold as we begin to enforce this resolution will make a new environment in which people are going to act, including those around Colonel Gadhafi.

GJELTEN: Let me interpret that for you, Liane. What she's saying is there's going to be a new environment where the commanders around Gadhafi, the people in his government, are going to rethink their loyalty to him. They're hoping, they're hoping that there will be mass defections here and that'll bring about the collapse of Gadhafi's regime. That's a hope. That's not a plan.

HANSEN: At some point, however, do you think ground troops will have to be deployed?

GJELTEN: I think that the Western countries are hoping that Gadhafi topples before that happens.

HANSEN: What about the Arab nations? Do they have a role in the military campaign?

GJELTEN: They have an important political role having endorsed this. I think that is not out of the question that before it's over we will see some Arab aircraft taking part in these operations. But the Arabs are a little bit unsure that they want to be seen too close.

HANSEN: NPR's Tom Gjelten in studio. Thank you very much, Tom.

GJELTEN: Good to see you, Liane.

HANSEN: Our coverage of the military action in Libya continues throughout today's program. We will hear about reaction in the Arab world and we also have a report from Eastern Libya.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HANSEN: You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.