By John T. Bennett and Daniel Strauss - 03/17/11 10:24 PM EDT
The United Nations Security Council on Thursday evening approved a draft resolution calling for a no-fly zone over Libya to assist rebel fighters.
The draft resolution passed with 10 votes in favor and none opposed. The U.S. representative voted in favor of the resolution after the Obama White House reversed course Wednesday evening, suddenly sounding ready to intervene after following a cautious path.
Five countries, including China, Russia, Germany and Brazil, abstained from voting on the issue. Emerging U.S. ally India also abstained, citing worries the resolution is based on information that is not credible.
The draft resolution calls for establishing a no-fly zone and a ceasefire between pro-Gadhafi and rebel forces in Libya. Diplomatic officials have said that military strikes could follow soon after.
After the Security Council passed the resolution, President Obama spoke to Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, according to the White House. The leaders agreed that Libya must comply with the U.N. resolution and that violence against the Libyan people must stop, a White House statement said.
The resolution comes after Libyan regime forces have gained momentum, leading many to predict Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi will remain in power unless other nations weigh in.
It remains unclear whether Washington and its allies are using the threat of force to compel Gadhafi to step aside or are actually prepared to intervene militarily.
The Arab League and other regional organizations have endorsed a no-fly zone.
President Barack Obama and other Western leaders are holding firm that Gadhafi must go.
But Pentagon officials continue cautioning that setting up and maintaining a no-fly zone would be complex and expensive.
However, Pentagon officials are working up options for such a mission that they will present to Obama.
Though complex, defense officials have made clear they feel the U.S. military would have few problems carrying out the mission.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier Thursday that it will take about one week to start the mission.
Panel ranking member Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked the air chief whether the prospect of being engaged by Air Force fighters and other U.S. military systems would alter the thinking of Libyan military pilots.
“Clearly, it would have an influence,” Schwartz replied.
Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Wednesday evening that measures that "perhaps go beyond" a no-fly zone, to protect Libyan citizens, should be considered.