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Who's rethinking support for Libya's no-fly zone – and why

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Anja Niedringhaus/AP

(Read caption) Libyan rebels patrol the center of Benghazi, eastern Libya, Sunday. A senior Pentagon official says US and allied attacks in Libya have been very effective in degrading the government's ability to threaten planes enforcing a no-fly zone over the North African country.

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The initial relief that followed Thursday's passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 – which authorizes a no-fly zone and “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians – has given way to criticism of its execution.

The resolution had broad international support when it passed 10-0 with 5 abstentions. But now, as questions arise over what a no-fly zone actually entails and what “all necessary measures” means – the dangers of which US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tried to warn others about before the UN resolution – some of that support is falling off.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Sunday that the airstrikes on Libya may have gone beyond their intended scope and were possibly endangering Libyan civilians further. Mr. Moussa’s statement shook Western powers, who did not want to be perceived as intervening in the Arab world without its support. (It’s unlikely that the US or European countries would have voted in favor of the UN resolution had the Arab League not endorsed a no-fly zone the previous week.)

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