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U.N. Must Weigh-In on No Fly Zone

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Sky News Wednesday that a no-fly zone over Libya cannot be a U.S.-led effort, and would need the backing of the international community.

“I think it’s very important that this not be a U.S.-led effort, because this comes from the people of Libya themselves,” she told Sky News.

“This doesn’t come from the outside. This doesn’t come from some Western power or some Gulf country saying this is what you should do, this is how you should live.”

Clinton’s comments come as Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell pushed back on notions that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was against setting up a no-fly zone.

“The secretary’s position on a no-fly zone has not changed,” Morrell told press traveling with Gates en route to a NATO advisory meeting in Brussels. “We are preparing a full range of military options for the president, including a no-fly zone.”

Morrell added, “We have already moved significant assets into the Mediterranean to provide humanitarian assistance.”

Libya will now likely be on the formal agenda of that pre scheduled defense ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, as British and French leaders continue to push for the establishment of a no-fly zone to prevent Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadaffi from firing on his own people.

“[Gates] position is he is committed to providing the president with the full range of options, it’s his duty also to present the ramifications of each option presented.”

Morrell added: “I don’t know that there is the distance that some of you perceive there is between his position” and that of others in the administration and elsewhere about setting up a no-fly zone.

Privately, defense officials express concern that there may be increasing talk among some NATO allies to set up a no fly zone but in terms of assets, the U.S. is the only military and air force that is in a position to provide the bulk of the no fly zone capability.

In testimony on Capitol Hill last week, Gates argued that there has been a lot of “loose talk” when it comes to setting up no fly zones, warning senators and congressmen that such a decision would require military strikes on Qaddafi‘s air defense capabilities.

But Retired General Wesley Clarke, who was actively involved in setting up a NATO no-fly zone in Bosnia, says that was not the case there where they simply warned Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that if his air defense systems were turned on, they would be bombed, which served as a deterrent for the most part and allowed allies to enforce the no-fly zone without bombing local air defense facilities.

During a speech to West Point cadets late last month, Gates questioned the wisdom of military intervention in such a volatile region of the world.”In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined, as Gen. MacArthur so delicately put it,” he said.

Gates told Fox News on Monday that he was not taking a shot at his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld nor sending a message to those calling for U.S. military intervention in Libya.

“I don’t think anybody has any intention of putting any ground forces in Libya,” he said. “Nobody has ever event talked about that.”

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