UN approves military force; Gaddafi closes on rebels

Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:42am GMT

By Maria Golovnina and Patrick Worsnip

TRIPOLI/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations authorised military attacks on Muammar Gaddafi's forces, but his forces closed in on the Libyan rebels and he vowed to storm their stronghold with "no mercy, no pity".

French diplomatic sources said action could follow within hours, and could include France, Britain and possibly the United States and one or more Arab states. A U.S. military official said no immediate U.S. action was expected.

Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam said on Friday that Libya was "not afraid" of the U.N. move, Al Arabiya television reported.

Time was running short for Benghazi, the eastern city that has been at the heart of Libya's month-old revolt.

But Gaddafi's troops did not fulfil his threat to overrun the rebel base overnight after their rapid counter-offensive brought them to within 100 km (60 miles) of the eastern city.

"We will come. House by house, room by room," Gaddafi said in a radio address to Benghazi late on Thursday.

Al Jazeera television showed thousands of people listening to the speech in a central Benghazi square, then erupting in celebration after the U.N. vote, waving anti-Gaddafi tricolours and chanting defiance of the man who has ruled for four decades.

Fireworks burst over the city and gunfire rang out.   Continued...

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