France Confirms: Military Strikes on Libya ‘Within Hours’

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Military action to protect civilians from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces will come within "hours" and France will participate in the strikes, government spokesman Francois Baroin said Friday.

The strikes will come "rapidly... within a few hours," he told RTL radio after the U.N. Security Council on Thursday cleared the way for air strikes by approving "all necessary measures" to impose a no-fly zone on Libya.

Baroin said the military action "is not an occupation of Libyan territory" but sought to "protect the Libyan people and to allow them to go all the way in their drive for freedom, which means bringing down the Gadhafi regime."

Baroin declined to say "when, how, on which targets, in what form," the strikes would come.

"The French who were at the vanguard of this call (for intervention) will naturally be part of the military intervention," he said.

"What happened last night (with the U.N. resolution) is a very important step in dealing with the war in Libya, Gadhafi's massacre of his people and we must recognize the powerful role played by President Nicolas Sarkozy and France."

Diplomats have indicated that air strikes from a coalition led by Britain, France and the United States could be imminent. However, the resolution rules out sending in foreign ground troops.

Baroin hailed the role of the 22-member Arab League in calling for action in Libya, without which "it would probably have been difficult to get the international community to do something."

"Even the Americans were in a bit of a position of waiting, of wait-and-see."

As for Germany, which along with four other countries abstained from the U.N. Security Council vote, Baroin said "we were already disappointed at the Council of Europe not to see Germany join us with the British in this action."

"But... what counts is what was done last night," he said. "I'm not sure, given the positions of Gadhafi and his son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, that anything can make these terrorist and bloodthirsty dictators see reason."

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