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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

US flexes muscle, sends warships to Libya

The United States began moving warships toward Libya and froze $30 billion in the country's assets as the administration declared all options on the table in its diplomatic, economic and military campaign to drive colonel Muammar Gaddafi from power.
Secretary of state Hillary Clinton said the administration was conferring with allies about imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. Such a move would likely be carried out only under a mandate from the UN or Nato, but Hillary's blunt confirmation that it was under consideration was clearly intended to ratchet up the pressure on Gaddafi and his dwindling band of loyalists.
"Gaddafi has lost the legitimacy to govern, and it is time for him to go without further violence or delay," Hillary told reporters after a special meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
ABC News said amphibious ship USS Kearsarge had left the Red Sea to transit through Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, close to Libya. USS Kearsarge has armed helicopters and harrier jets on board as well as around 700 Marines. It also said aircraft carrier USS Enterprise had also been kept on 'high standby alert' in the Red Sea, though it had not been given orders to move into Mediterranean yet.
But officials in Washington and elsewhere said that direct military action remained unlikely, and that the moves were designed as much as anything as a warning to Colonel Gaddafi and a show of support to the protesters seeking to overthrow his government.
Enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya would first require bombing the north African nation's air defense systems, top US commander general James Mattis warned. A no-fly zone would require removing "the air defense capability first," Mattis, the head of central command, told a Senate hearing . "It would be a military operation ," the general said.
Anti-regime leaders said they have formed a military council in Benghazi, which has become the hub of efforts to topple Gaddafi. The council, comprising officers who joined protesters, will liaise with similar groups in other freed cities but it was not clear if there were plans for a regional command.

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