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Libya declares cease-fire as EU leaders plan military strikes

France, which spearheaded last night's unexpectedly strong UN Security Council resolution on Libya, said today that strikes on Muammar Qaddafi's forces would commence 'soon.'

By Staff writer / March 18, 2011

French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech to inaugurate the new headquarters of the International Francophonie (French-Speaking countries) Organization in Paris, Friday March 18.

Charles Platiau/AP

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Paris

European leaders moved quickly to mobilize military assets against Muammar Qaddafi's forces following an unexpectedly strong resolution from the United Nations Security Council, even as Libya declared a cease-fire.

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French officials said Friday morning that military strikes against Libyan forces surrounding Benghazi would commence “soon." British Prime Minister David Cameron affirmed that British forces were prepared to attack by air a wide range of Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s military, including heavy weaponry that he said threatened “a city of a million people … an ancient city” – the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi.

France, Britain, and Lebanon led the charge for a UN Security Council resolution passed Thursday evening with crucial backing from the US. Expected to authorize only a “no-fly” zone, the council instead moved to “Chapter Seven” status, the most robust option for intervention, which allows for protection of civilians and humanitarian aid using “all necessary measures."

Mr. Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Arab leaders are to meet in Paris on Saturday for talks including specifics on participation by several Arab nations, not yet clarified. The meeting is likely to involve Egyptian military officials in discussions on how its highly capable air force could hit Libyan ground forces in an effort to boost the low morale of rebels and swing momentum back against Qaddafi.

Military aircraft are reportedly to use Italian bases located in proximity to Libya, among others. France has aircraft carrier capability in the Mediterranean. Military analysts say the expected opening gambit of European and Arab forces will aim at Libyan air headquarters and logistical support.

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