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Coalition Carries Out Second Night Of Strikes On Qaddafi Defenses


Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Qaddafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces.
A multinational coalition has carried out a second night of strikes on targets in Libya aimed at establishing a no-fly zone and preventing Muammar Qaddafi's forces from launching assaults on opposition supporters seeking the end of Qaddafi's rule.

The United States -- which has been carrying out the air strikes in a coalition with Britain, France, Italy, Canada, and other nations -- said the air campaign has been working and a no-fly zone is now effectively in place over the North African country.

The United States also rejected a cease-fire declared by Qaddafi's regime, saying the alleged cease-fire was violated by Qaddafi's troops immediately after it was announced.

Explosions rocked the Libyan capital Tripoli on the night of March 20, and Qaddafi-regime officials said a building in Qaddafi's personal compound was hit and severely damaged by an apparent missile strike. Qaddafi's whereabouts at the time of the reported strike were not known.

U.S. Navy Vice Admiral William Gortney, the staff director for the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, denied the coalition had targeted Qaddafi. He said allied forces were focused only on fulfilling last week's United Nations Security Council resolution calling for the establishment of a no-fly zone and the protection of the Libyan people.

‘In A Matter Of Days’

Meantime, U.S. officials are stressing the limits of American military involvement in the Libyan conflict.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking on March 20 as he traveled to Russia, said the United States would not keep a "preeminent role" in the coalition maintaining the no-fly zone over Libya. Gates said the U.S. military is expected to hand over "primary responsibility" for the air mission to France, Britain, or NATO “in a matter days.”

In addition to attacking air-defense sites, British, French, and U.S. planes were reported to have hit tanks and other vehicles of Qaddafi's army south of the rebel-held bastion of Benghazi in eastern Libya.

In the aftermath of the air attacks, there was some concern that diplomatic support for the strikes was diminishing, especially from the Arab League.

Today, the head of the Arab League, Amr Musa, reaffirmed his respect for the United Nations resolution that authorized military action against Libya.

Musa said after talks in Cairo with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the Arab League has no conflict with the no-fly zone resolution on Libya because "it is for protecting civilians."

On March 20, Musa was quoted as saying he had concerns about the way the no-fly zone was being implemented.

Ban said the support given by the Arab League for a UN-imposed no-fly zone over Libya had made the measure possible.

About 50 pro-Qaddafi demonstrators surrounded Ban on Cairo's Tahrir Square today after his talks with Musa, forcing the UN Secretary-General to retreat back into the Arab League headquarters.

compiled from agency reports


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