The UN Security Council has backed a no-fly zone over Libya and “all necessary measures” short of an invasion “to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas”.In New York, the 15-member body voted 10-0 in favour, with five abstentions.Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi’s forces have recently retaken several towns seized by rebels in an uprising.Rebel forces reacted with joy in their Benghazi stronghold but a government spokesman condemned UN “aggression”.Loyalist forces are bearing down on Benghazi, home to a million people.Following the vote US President Barack Obama called the French and British leaders to discuss the next move. They said Libya must comply immediately with the resolution.It is not thought that the US would be involved in the first strikes, but the British and French are likely to get logistical backup from Arab allies. There were reports military action could come soon.US officials said an attack on Col Gaddafi’s air force could begin by Sunday.The UK, France and Lebanon proposed Security Council Resolution 1973, with US support.Russia and China – which often oppose the use of force against a sovereign country as they believe it sets a dangerous precedent – abstained rather than using their power of veto as permanent members.French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, introducing the resolution, said: “In Libya, for a number of weeks the people’s will has been shot down… by Colonel Gaddafi who is attacking his own people.”We cannot let these warmongers do this, we cannot abandon civilians.”He added: “We should not arrive too late.”The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said: “This resolution should send a strong message to Colonel Gaddafi and his regime that the violence must stop, the killing must stop and the people of Libya must be protected and have the opportunity to express themselves freely.”British ambassador to the UN, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, said: “The international community has come together in deploring the actions of the Gaddafi regime and demanding that the regime end this violence against the Libyan people.”He said the UK was “ready to shoulder our responsibility”.But Germany, which abstained, will not be contributing to the military effort. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said his government sees “considerable dangers and risks” in military action against Col Gaddafi.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Beijing had “serious reservations” about the resolution but did not veto it “in view of the concerns and stance of the Arab countries and African Union and the special circumstances that currently apply in Libya”.There was a joyful response to the vote among rebels in Benghazi. Locals cheered, fired guns in the air and let off fireworks to celebrate the imminent no-fly zone.But Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim said the vote amounted to “a call for Libyans to kill each other”, according to Agence France-Presse news agency.”This resolution shows an aggressive attitude on the part of the international community, which threatens the unity of Libya and its stability,” he is reported to have said.Shortly before the vote, Col Gaddafi told Portuguese television: “If the world is crazy, we will be crazy too.”Earlier on Thursday, addressing the people of Benghazi, Col Gaddafi said his troops were coming “tonight” and there would be “no mercy”.He told rebels to go home, adding that “whoever lays down his weapons” would be pardoned.Rebel leaders replied by saying their forces would stand firm and not be deterred by Col Gaddafi’s threats.Shortly before the UN vote on Thursday, anti-aircraft fire and explosions were heard in Benghazi – BBC