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UN debates no-fly zone over Libya

Supporters of a no-fly zone over Libya have vowed to swiftly introduce a UN resolution to try to prevent aerial attacks by Muammar Gaddafi's military on the uprising.

But the quick approval they are seeking is unlikely because of questions raised by Russia and other Security Council members.

After the council held urgent closed-door consultations to discuss the Arab League's request for a no-fly zone, Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow is "open-minded" but wants answers first to questions such as who will implement a no-fly zone and how it will be done.

France and Britain have drafted elements of a Security Council resolution for a no-fly zone over Libya, which diplomats said follows the outlines of the 1993 resolution that imposed a no-fly zone over Bosnia.

France's UN Ambassador Gerard Araud said he did not understand Mr Churkin's demands because the Security Council is not "a military headquarters".

The UN's most powerful body is supposed to give political and legal authorisation, not make operational decisions, he added. Mr Araud also pointed out that the Bosnia resolution did not specify who would impose the no-fly zone and how it would be done.

Lebanon's UN Ambassador Nawaf Salam, who called the meeting as the only Arab nation on the council, said: "We would like the council to act as swiftly as possible and would like consensus on the no-fly zone.

"It's not only the matter of rebels," he said of the Libyan government's military action. "There are hundreds of thousands of people under fire from Gaddafi's planes or mortar shells. So our message to them is that we are going to do our utmost to protect the civilian populations in Libya as swiftly as possible."

Salam said he expects some questions from council members to be answered in the draft resolution, which Lebanon is now working on with the British and French.

Col Gaddafi's forces bombarded two key rebel-held cities, according to reports late on Monday. The attacks came in a bid to seize back the country's east by the air even as rebels said they retained control of the streets in the region that holds most of the country's oil wealth.

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