The Libyan opposition has welcomed with jubilation the U.N. Security Council decision to authorize a no-fly zone over Libya.
The resolution gives permission to U.N. members to take "all necessary measures" to protect civilians, including a ban on all flights over Libya. Anti-Gadhafi protesters in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi greeted the news with cheers, celebratory gunfire and fireworks.
Hadi Shalluf, president of the Justice and Democracy Party of Libya, says the opposition would welcome UN peacekeepers in Libya to help enforce the no-fly zone on the ground.
“All the Libyans now, they are very, very happy even as this resolution is coming very, very late. But we are really glad and then happy. Today, just now in Benghazi where the people go outside singing, and then dancing, and are very, very happy about this resolution,’ he said.
A Libyan government soldier poses for the camera at the west gate of town Ajdabiyah, March 17, 2011
Shalluf thanks French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. President Barack Obama for what he says is their help in making the no-fly zone resolution possible.
“We would like to say thank you to United States; we would like to say thank you to Mr. Obama and then we would like to say thank you to Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. [Alain] Juppe, the French president and foreign minister, about what they did for the Libyan people,” Shalluf says.
The UN Security Council resolution also calls for a ban on all flights in Libyan airspace to help protect civilians, except for humanitarian flights and flights authorized by the U.N. and Arab League.
Shalluf says while the ban on flights in Libyan airspace is a good one, the opposition would welcome UN peacekeepers to help enforce the resolution.
“We think that this is a very great decision. We wish now that the United Nations will send peacekeepers to help with the application of this resolution on the ground. This is very important for building our country in the future because just as we will be finished with Gadhafi, we need also the United Nations support for a new constitution and to have the rule of the law,” Shalluf said.
The Libyan leader warned the rebels in Benghazi Thursday to surrender or face an imminent attack. He said his forces will show no mercy and dismissed the resolution as worthless.
But Shalluf is hopeful that the UN no-fly zone can prevent Gadhafi from carrying out his threat to attack the opposition stronghold of Benghazi.
“I think that Gadhafi will make such a threat that he will be attacking Benghazi, but I think that the French air force, the United States air force and also the U.K. [United Kingdom] air force they can take action also against Gadhafi troops and mercenaries because otherwise, if we just make no-fly zone it would make no sense if there is no military action against Gadhafi and his troops on the ground and also his airplanes,” Shalluf says.