NATO has decided to boost surveillance flights over Libya as the alliance debates the utility of imposing a "no-fly zone" over the country.
U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, said allies agreed on Monday to increase AWACS flights from 10 to 24 hours a day, an expansion that is part of contingency planning for possible military intervention in Libya beyond humanitarian efforts.
The decision came as the alliance's governing board met to discuss what unique capabilities NATO could bring to Libya.
Daalder said other ideas being considered are redeploying NATO vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, along with nearby air assets, to deal with humanitarian aid as well as establishing a command and control structure to co-ordinate relief efforts.
The AWACS, which are long-range aircraft that can detect planes on radar systems, are crewed by a number of nations, including Canada, however NATO officials said they couldn't confirm Canadian involvement, because it is an "operational detail."
U.S. and NATO considering military response: Obama
In Washington, D.C., on Monday, President Barack Obama told reporters that the U.S. and its NATO allies are still considering a military response to violence in Libya and stand with the country's people as they face "unacceptable" violence.
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|Source: The Associated Press|
Obama, speaking at a news conference alongside Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is at the White House for meetings, also sent a strong message to Gadhafi, saying he and his supporters will be held responsible for the violence there.
The British, French and Gulf states stepped up their calls for a no-fly zone Monday. U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates reiterated that all options were on the table, but that "at this point there is a sense that any action should be the result of an international sanction."
Rebels in Libya warned that Gadhafi regime will try increasingly desperate measures if the West doesn't intervene urgently.
The appeal came after forces loyal to Gadhafi launched multiple airstrikes on opposition fighters in the second day of a harsh government crackdown to thwart rebels advancing on the capital Tripoli.
CBC News' Nahlah Ayed, reporting from the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, said a spokesman for the nascent transitional government warned that, if the West does not act, Gadhafi might resort to bombing or causing damage to some of the country's oilfields.
"The transitional government has been very clear in saying they do want some kind of no-fly zone over their part of the country to stop Gadhafi from taking retalitory action against them and also against the oilfields, which are of course of great importance to the West and many other countries in the world."
Tripoli, meanwhile, remains a Gadhafi stronghold.
The CBC's Adrienne Arsenault reported that little can be heard in the capital except the occasional bursts of gunfire in the distance.
"This is a very quiet, very calm Tripoli tonight — bizarrely so. This is not a natural calm that's happening here. It feels very much like an enforced calm."
Arsenault said there is no curfew, but people are few and no one wants to be seen speaking to the media.
Gadhafi criticizes foreign media
Gadhafi, in an exclusive interview with France 24 on Sunday, accused the international media of misleading people about events in Libya, saying they're not reporting the broad support enjoyed by his government.
Gadhafi maintained that al-Qaeda is behind the chaos in his country, and denied there have been mass killings.
The United Nations has estimated that as many as 1,000 people have died in the past three weeks during the violent uprising in Libya.
Gadhafi rejected the suggestion Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would play a mediating role between the Libyan leader and the National Libyan Council.
"There is no problem here," he said. "This mediation does not exist for the moment. What we need is to get rid of these armed gangs."
Gadhafi told the TV channel that the African Union was sending a fact-finding committee that would show reports about problems were a lie.