West backs off calls for Libya regime change as Qaddafi warns of 'long war'
French, US, and British airstrikes have crippled Libyan coastal defenses and air abilities as the largest coalition of military force since the Iraq war enters its second day.
Paris — European and US airstrikes continued to pound Libyan military positions Sunday for the second day of "Operation Odyssey Dawn,” hours after Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi promised a “long war” from an undisclosed bunker.
Some 20 French jets including Mirages crippled Libya coastal defenses Saturday as US and British forces also launched 112 Tomahawk missiles in the first of a multi-phase operation that is the largest coalition of military forces since the Iraq war.
"I would say the no-fly zone is effectively in place," US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told CNN on Sunday, explaining that allied forces have wiped out Libyan airfields and defenses.
Gulf nations Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will also send air forces as part of the Arab League’s support of a no-fly zone. Arab nations have requested, however, that world leaders not call for regime change, but leave this to the Libyan people.
Qaddafi warns of 'long war'
Colonel Qaddafi has characterized the fight, inaugurated by a robust UN Security Council resolution Thursday calling for “all necessary measures” to protect the Libyan people, as a war by the Christian world bent on securing oil.
"We are ready for a long war. You are not prepared for a long war in Libya. We are prepared. This is a very happy moment we are living," he said Sunday in an address on state TV, adding the leaders of the West would “fall like Hitler … Mussolini.”
After French jets destroyed four Libyan tanks outside the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi on Saturday, according to French defense sources, Qaddafi promised to attack Mediterranean targets. His defiance of UN Resolution 1973 comes as European and American leaders back off calls for the strongman's ouster.
Will West let Qaddafi stay in power?
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe Sunday said coalition military “operations will continue in the days to come, until the Libyan regime accepts the UN resolution,” but he added that the ouster of the 41-year-ruler was not the signal purpose.
Qaddafi staying in power is "certainly potentially one outcome," Admiral Mullen told NBC's "Meet the Press," adding that the UN-approved airstrikes "are limited and it isn't about seeing him go."
Pentagon officials and the White House are at pains to describe the UN-sanctioned venture as a European-led operation to save the lives of Libyans.
Speaking from Brazil on Saturday night, President Obama described the attacks as a “limited military action” employing a “broad coalition” that is European led, and that the decision to go ahead “is not an outcome we sought… But we can’t stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy.”