CF-18 jets to help enforce Libya no-fly zone

Canada is expected to announce that it will deploy six CF-18 fighter jets to help enforce the UN's just-approved no-fly zone over Libya, CBC News has learned.

Canada is expected to announce that it will deploy six CF-18 fighter jets to help enforce the UN's just-approved no-fly zone over Libya, CBC News has learned.

The jets would take at least 24 hours to arrive at their destination, which has yet to be determined, but defence sources told CBC that Malta and Italy were possibilities. Between 100 and 200 support personnel would be involved, the sources said, adding the announcement was imminent.

A Defence Ministry spokesman declined to comment on the matter.

Earlier on Thursday evening, the UN Security Council voted on a resolution that would not only impose a no-fly zone over Libya but authorize member states to take "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from attacks by Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

The vote was 10-0 in favour of the measure with five abstentions, including Russia and China.

Immediately following the vote, a crowd of thousands fired guns in the air and set off fireworks in the rebels' de facto capital of Benghazi to celebrate the news, Al-Jazeera TV showed. Also, U.S. crude oil futures rose $2.05 a barrel to $103.47, Reuters reported.

Gadhafi, who has vowed to retake Benghazi and the rest of the opposition-held eastern half of Libya, said he doesn't acknowledge the resolution and warned that any military action would be construed as "colonization without any justification" and would have "grave repercussions."

Reuters reported Friday that Seif al-Islam, one of Gadhafi's sons, told Al Arabiya television that Libya is not afraid of the resolution authorizing military strikes. It is not known when or where he made the comment.

If military action is taken against Libya, the Libyan Defence Ministry has said there would be swift retaliation, even beyond Libyan frontiers, Reuters reported.

Europe's air traffic agency said Friday that Libya has closed its air space to all flights.

Enforcement on the way

The UN resolution calls on nations to "establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians."

It also authorizes UN member states to take "all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory."

The vote opens the way for strikes by Western militaries on Gadhafi's ground troops and armour.

The Obama administration was readying plans to enforce the no-fly zone with the help of Arab nations, officials said Thursday.

Those officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they expected the attempt to ground Gadhafi's air force could begin by Sunday or Monday. The effort likely would involve jet fighters, bombers and surveillance aircraft.

One said Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were among possible participants, in a showing designed to demonstrate that the effort to shield rebels trying to bring down Gadhafi had support from other countries in the region.

In Britain, a lawmaker with knowledge of defence matters confirmed that British forces were on standby for airstrikes and could be mobilized as soon as Thursday night.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said, "today, the Security Council has responded to the Libyan people's cry for help."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office issued a one-sentence statement saying he and U.S. President Barack Obama had spoken by phone about the resolution. But Sarkozy's office declined further comment.

A government spokesman later told Reuters that France would participate.

A Norwegian daily newspaper said the defence minister had confirmed Norway's participation.

"We will contribute to the operation," Grete Faremo told the Verdens Gang. "But it is too early to say exactly in what way. Sending air capabilities would be natural."

Gadhafi wants Benghazi

In an address Thursday evening on state TV, Gadhafi said his forces would begin the assault on Benghazi, proclaiming "the matter has been decided … we are coming."

He said there would be amnesty for those "who throw their weapons away," but for those who resist "there will be no mercy or compassion."

Gadhafi said his forces would "rescue" the people of Benghazi from "traitors" and warned them not to stand alongside the opposition. "The people will see tomorrow if the city is one of traitors or heroes.… Don't betray me, my beloved Benghazi."

In the face of Gadhafi's increasingly powerful advance, the United States sought the UN mandate to strike his forces on land, sea and air.

The U.S.'s expanded call for action was a dramatic about-face for Washington, which for weeks has been expressing hesitation over imposing a more limited no-fly zone in Libya.

The U.S. change in position reflected the past week's swift reversal of the realities on the ground where once-confident rebels are now in danger of being crushed under an overpowering pro-Gadhafi force using rockets, artillery, tanks and warplanes.

A burned truck is seen on the road leading to the Libyan city of Ajdabiya on Wednesday. (Jerome Delay/Associated Press)

That force has advanced along the Mediterranean coast aiming to recapture the rebel-held eastern half of Libya. Libya's state TV proclaimed that Gadhafi forces intend to attack Benghazi on Saturday and "cleanse [it] of the rodents" who it said had terrorized the population.

"We'll clean Benghazi — all of Benghazi — of the deviants and of anyone who tries to harm our leader and our revolution," it said in a message aired repeatedly Thursday and addressed to the city residents. "We will take no mercy against collaborators."

Libyan officials also vowed to retake Misrata, the last rebel-held city in the western half of the country, near Tripoli.

With files from The Associated Press