French fighter jets over Libya
Tripoli, Libya – French fighter jets soared over Libya today to counter Moammar Gadhafi’s military forces who were intent on destroying the opposition as they pushed into the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
“Our air force will oppose any aggression by Colonel Gadhafi against the population of Benghazi,” said French President Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking after an international, top-level meeting in Paris over the Libyan crisis.
“As of now, our aircraft are preventing planes from attacking the town,” he said, calling the intervention a “grave decision.”
“As of now, our aircraft are prepared to intervene against tanks, armored vehicles threatening unarmed civilians.”
The international show of force is much-welcomed by besieged rebel forces who have called for backup to help them stave off a government offensive against their positions in Benghazi and other rebel-held enclaves.
Sarkozy said Gadhafi still has time to stop its activities and as of Friday, France, Britain, the United States and League nationsntries passed along a warning for Gadhafi to stop his operations immediately.
But “Gadhafi has totally ignored the warning” and “in the last few hours his forces have stepped up their deadly offenses,” Sarkozy said.
The international coalition meeting in Paris — which included Western and Arab partners — focused on how to take on a Libyan government bent on destroying the fledgling opposition movement under the U.N. resolution authorizing force to protect civilians against the Gadhafi government.
“There is still time for Colonel Gadhafi to avoid the worst, by complying immediately and unreservedly with all the demands of the international community. The doors of diplomacy will open once again when the aggression stops,” Sarkozy said.
Speaking from Brasilia, Brazil, President Barack Obama said the international coalition was united. “Our consensus was strong and our resolve is clear. The people of Libya must be protected.”
Asked whether the decision to carry out bombing against Libyan forces could begin immediately after today’s session ends, a senior State Department official said: “In terms of when the bombing starts, I’ll leave that for others to lay out at the appropriate time.”
“Everybody recognizes the urgency,” he said. (CNN)