Libya has declared a cease-fire in the country to protect civilians and comply with a United Nations resolution passed overnight, Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa (pictured) says. His comments come as Britain prepares to deploy fighter aircraft into the region.
“We decided on an immediate cease-fire and on an immediate stop to all military operations,” he told reporters. “(Libya) takes great interest in protecting civilians,” he said, adding that the country would also protect all foreigners and foreign assets in Libya.
Meanwhile, Britain will imminently start moving fighter jets to bases from where they can help enforce a no fly zone over Libya, Prime Minister David Cameron said in the House of Commons this morning. Cameron, who said British forces would join the UN-sponsored operation if Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi failed to stop attacks on civilians, said the international community would soon set out what it expected from Gaddafi.
Cameron will also attend a summit in Paris tomorrow to discuss the situation with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Arab leaders. “Britain will deploy Tornadoes and Typhoons as well as air-to-air refuelling and surveillance aircraft,” Cameron told parliament.
“Preparations to deploy these aircraft have already started and in the coming hours they will move to airbases from where they can start to take the necessary action.”
The United Nations has authorised military attacks on Gaddafi’s forces to protect civilians. Cameron said it was right that the latest UN resolution excluded any invasion force on Libyan territory. “This is not about an army of occupation,” Cameron said.
In another development, Libyan authorities are preventing foreign journalists from reporting freely in the capital Tripoli Friday ahead of anticipated protests against Muammar Gaddafi. Emboldened by a U.N. resolution authorising a “no-fly” zone and military attacks on Gaddafi’s forces, Libyan opposition supporters in the capital said they would gather later in the day to call for the end of the Libyan leader’s rule.
“Today there will be protests in Tripoli. Everyone is waiting for the UN forces to arrive. They feel stronger,” said Mohamed, a Libyan living in exile abroad who spoke to his colleagues and friends in Tripoli Friday. “The mood is strong … It will be after Friday prayers. They are preparing now. We think it will be a big one.”
Journalists invited to Tripoli by the Libyan government last month were prevented from leaving their government-designated hotel in the centre of the capital Friday. Several reporters who tried to leave the hotel were stopped and told it was unsafe to go outside. Social networking websites such as Twitter were flooded with reports overnight of clashes between protesters and Gaddafi militiamen in several districts of the capital. They also said protests would take place in Tripoli Friday.
Sporadic gunfire could be heard throughout the night but reports could not be verified independently because opposition activists were not responding to telephone calls and foreign journalists could not report from those areas. Tripoli’s working class districts such as Tajoura have been a focus of anti-Gaddafi protests in previous weeks. Young people and worshippers usually gather outside mosques after Friday prayers to express their discontent with the authorities.
Demonstrations have gradually fizzled out in Tripoli since the start of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion a month ago, but the U.N. Security Council a resolution, passed overnight, appeared to have stirred emotions on both sides.
Shortly after the U.N. vote, a mob of angry Gaddafi supporters stormed into a late-night news conference by a foreign ministry official at the hotel, shouting slogans and waving flags. Some climbed on a dais and chanted pro-Gaddafi songs.