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Coalition Action Against Qaddafi Regime Enters Second Week


Rebel guards perform Friday Prayers in Benghazi.

The international military action against Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi's regime has entered its second week.

On March 25, the seventh day of the operation, Qatar became the first Arab League member state to take part in the campaign when two Qatari fighter jets joined French planes in enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya.

The United Arab Emirates has said it will also contribute planes to enforce the no-fly zone, and Western diplomats say they expect more Arab nations to follow.

Planes from Western nations were reported to have bombed Qaddafi's forces in a bid to help rebels secure control of the eastern town of Ajdabiya, while Qaddafi forces were reported to have shelled around the rebel-held city of Misrata.

The African Union group of nations, which has opposed the military action, said it was planning an initiative toward opening peace talks to end the conflict.

NATO, meanwhile, has said the operation to enforce the no-fly zone and protect Libyan civilians from attacks by Qaddafi's forces -- in line with a United Nations Security Council resolution -- could last 90 days or longer.

NATO has named Canadian Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard to lead the alliance's operations.

An official in Qaddafi's Health Ministry, Khaled Omar, said a total of 114 Libyans have died since the international air strikes began one week ago -- but he gave no indication how many of those killed were soldiers or civilians.

The White House said U.S. President Barack Obama would give a televised speech on Monday, March 28, explaining the United States' goals in the conflict.

NATO command of the UN-mandated no-fly mission, approved by alliance members on March 24, is expected to start early next week. NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the alliance envisages a 90-day operation, but it could be longer or shorter than that.

Lungescu said that while the military command would remain strictly within NATO, an international conference in London on March 29 will set "the wide political guidance" for action against Libya.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said on March 25 that coalition forces fired 16 Tomahawk cruise missiles and flew 153 air sorties in the preceding 24 hours, targeting Muammar Qaddafi's artillery, mechanized forces, and command and control infrastructure.

compiled from agency reports