US pushing for air strikes, no-fly zone in Libya
By Steve Holland and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States, in a sharp shift in tone, wants the United Nations to authorize not just a no-fly zone to aid Libyan rebels but also air strikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
The move toward a tougher stance in favor of military action comes after an extended internal debate within the Obama administration over how to stop Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's battle to put down a rebellion that has threatened his 30-year reign.
The Libyan opposition has appealed for immediate assistance to prevent the rebel capital of Benghazi from falling to forces loyal to Gaddafi, and the question facing President Barack Obama and other world leaders was whether the action they planned to take would come in time.
U.S. officials said the United States has concluded a "no-fly" zone should be adopted and other measures that go well beyond a no-fly zone, should be taken, including air strikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery.
The United States is also seeking U.N. authorization for other steps under consideration, including diverting frozen Gaddafi assets to Libyan rebels for buying weapons and tightening a Libyan arms embargo.
U.S. officials believe the measures could be implemented rapidly to have an immediate impact.
NO "BOOTS ON THE GROUND"
The United States supports international measures in Libya that are "short of boots on the ground," Undersecretary of State William Burns said on Thursday. Continued...