NATO and several nonmember nations are considering ways to respond to a UN resolution that effectively backs the setting up of a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Muammar Qaddafi's forces from mounting air strikes against antigovernment rebels.
The UN Security Council approved the resolution on March 17 in a vote 10-0, with five council members abstaining -- Russia, China, Brazil, India, and Germany.
The resolution authorizes the use of "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from attacks by Qaddafi's forces. It rules out sending foreign ground troops into Libyan territory.
A spokeswoman said NATO envoys are to discuss what actions the alliance may take on Libya in the wake of the vote.Now For The Enforcement Part
In the United States, the White House said President Barack Obama telephoned the leaders of Britain and France -- David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, respectively -- to discuss measures to "ensure the enforcement" of the resolution.
Britain and France have already said they were ready to "respond" to the UN decision.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the adoption of the resolution and called it a "historic decision." He said he expects council members to act "immediately" on the resolution's provisions.
The U.K.'s ambassador to the UN said the resolution would free the Libyan people.
Diplomats were quoted as saying the resolution appears to clear the way for air strikes targeting Qaddafi's forces from a coalition led by Britain, France, and the United States.
Britain’s UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said during the council session that Qaddafi had disregarded a previous UN resolution, adopted on February 26, calling on him to stop the assault on his own people.
"The central purpose of this resolution is clear -- to end the violence, to protect civilians, and to allow the people of Libya to determine their own future free from the tyranny of the Qaddafi regime,” Grant said.
Some UN diplomats said privately that even though the language of the resolution was unusually strong by UN standards, it may have come too late to do much good.
According to the latest reports, Qaddafi loyalists are preparing to launch a major offensive against Benghazi, the last big stronghold of the anti-Qaddafi rebels. Pro-Qaddafi forces have made major gains in the past week and retaken control of large parts of Libyan territory.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said that in addition to the no-fly zone, the resolution empowers the newly established Libyan Sanctions Committee to impose sanctions on those who violate an arms embargo against Libya, including countries that provide Qaddafi with mercenaries.
"This resolution also strengthens enforcement of the arms embargo and bans all international flights by Libyan-owned or operated aircraft,” Rice said. “The resolution freezes the assets of seven more individuals and five entities, including key state-owned Libyan companies."Some Skepticism On The Council
Five council members, including permanent members China and Russia, expressed skepticism toward the provision for the use of force but in the end decided to abstain instead of using their veto power.
Russia's ambassador to the UN said his country was worried about humanitarian consequences.
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow disagreed with the "all necessary measures" provision because it puts a heavy responsibility on the international community to refrain from excessive force.
"The responsibility for the inevitable humanitarian consequences of the excessive use of outside [military] force in the Libyan situation would be entirely the burden of those who would resort to such actions,” Churkin said. “If this is to happen, then the victims will be not only the civilian population of Libya but also the interests for the protection of peace and security in the whole region of North Africa and the Middle East."
In a statement, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said, "We are still very skeptical about the option of a military intervention in Libya also contained in the resolution. We see considerable risks in this. Therefore, we cannot subscribe to this part of the resolution. German soldiers will not participate in a military action in Libya."
From the first debate on the council it was clear that although members disagreed on some points, Qaddafi enjoyed no support and that all members were convinced he must leave.
Nikola Krastev contributed to this report from the United Nations