Government warplanes bombed rebel positions near this coastal city’s oil refinery yesterday, seeking to drive the opposition forces farther back to the east, as President Obama warned that the West was considering all its options in Libya, including possible military intervention.
Britain and France are drafting a UN Security Council resolution that would authorize a no-fly zone over Libya aimed at protecting antigovernment forces in Libya from military airstrikes, diplomats said.
Yesterday’s airstrikes near Ras Lanuf, which killed at least one person, started in the morning, sending huge plumes of smoke into the air. At every sound of a jet engine, the rebels opened fire with what sounded like all available weapons, including heavy artillery and pistols.
In the evening, a warplane swooped low and dropped bombs near a heavily defended rebel checkpoint, causing an unknown number of casualties.
The strikes came a day after troops loyal to Moammar Khadafy stormed the town of Bin Jawwad, just to Ras Lanuf’s west, and sent the fighters holding it into retreat. But the colonel’s loyalists remained on the city’s outskirts, taking no immediate steps to recapture Ras Lanuf from the rebels, who took control two days ago in their westward push.
The rebels have said they would welcome Western help in the form of a no-fly zone, though not ground forces. The Gulf Arab States issued a similar request, Reuters reported.
Obama said yesterday that the United States was conferring with its NATO allies about possible military action. “We’ve got NATO as we speak consulting in Brussels around a wide range of potential options, including potential military options, in response to the violence that continues to take place inside of Libya,’’ he said.
The US ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, said the group had established 24-hour surveillance of Libya with reconnaissance aircraft to give the alliance better information on the military and humanitarian situations on the ground.
RIA Novosti reported that the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said Moscow was against any form of foreign intervention in Libya, casting doubt on UN-backed action to establish a no-fly zone. But Russia is not a member of NATO.
Obama had a warning for high-ranking Khadafy loyalists. “I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Colonel Khadafy,’’ he said at the White House, after a meeting with Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard. “It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward and they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place there.’’
American military planes shuttled between Europe and Tunisia, bringing in supplies and taking out some of the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled across the Libyan border.