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Air strikes on Libya expected within hours

media A pro-Kadhafi protest in Tripoli, 18 March 2011 Reuters/Zohra Bensemra

Fighter jets are expected to be launched against the forces of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi on Friday after the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution late Thursday approving a no-fly zone and air strikes over the country.

France, Britain, the United States, Norway and Qatar have said they will help enforce the no-fly zone.

Strikes will come "rapidly, within a few hours," French government spokesman François Baroin told French radio RTL on Friday morning.

"The French, who were at the vanguard of this call will naturally be part of the military intervention," Baroin added. "Even the Americans were in a bit of a position of wait-and-see."

The resolution rules out sending in ground troops.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy met Prime Minister François Fillon, Defence Minister Gerard Longuet and army chief of staff Edouard Guillard on Friday.

The Security Council voted 10 in favour, with five abstentions. China, Germany, Poland, Australia and Russia have said they will not take part in the intervention. The five abstentions in the Security Council came from permanent members China and Russia as well as Germany, Brazil and India.

Britain has mobilised Tornado and Eurofighter aircraft.

Britain has two frigates, the HMS Cumberland and the HMS Westminster already in the Mediterranean, as well as an air base in Cyprus.

Italian defence and security chiefs are due to held emergency talks at 11h00 universal time on Friday. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa will address parliament at 13h00 universal time.

Italy had said earlier it will allow its air bases to be used to enforce a no-fly zone, if it were approved by the UN. A friendship treaty between Italy and Libya forbids the use of Italian air bases to bomb Libya, but Frattini said earlier that the document was "de facto suspended".

Libya shut down its airspace on Friday until further notice.

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