United Nations: United Nations (UN) Security Council on Thursday paved the way for international air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi forces, as it passed a resolution approving a no-fly zone over Libya and authorising "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in the strife-torn African country.

Ten of the 15-member body voted in favour of the resolution which also calls for an immediate ceasefire in Libya.

Soon after the passage of resolution, US President Barack Obama called up his French counterpart Nocolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss on the enforcement of the UNSC resolution in Muammar Gaddafi-ruled Libya.

"The leaders agreed that Libya must immediately comply with all terms of the resolution and that violence against the civilian population of Libya must cease... (they) agreed to coordinate closely on next steps and to continue working with Arab and other international partners to ensure the enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions on Libya," the White House said in a statement.

The resolution also broadens previous sanctions by imposing asset freezes for seven more of Gaddafi's supporters and five more entities including state-owned Libyan companies.

The sanctions included an arms embargo, an asset freeze and travel ban on Gaddafi and his confidants, and a referral to the Hague-based International Criminal Court.

Last week, the Arab League called for a no-fly zone to be established in Libya and the resolution, co-authored by Britain and France, was tabled by Lebanon on Tuesday.

Benghazi welcomes UN move

Meanwhile, media reports from the ground suggested that news of the UN resolution had been welcomed in Benghazi. Celebratory gunfire rang out in the city and imams at mosques
shouted "God is greatest, God is greatest."

Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy envoy to the UN who had turned against Gaddafi, called for the resolution to be implemented "immediately."

Five nations abstain from voting

Five nations including China, Russia (which have veto power) and non-permanent members India, Germany and Brazil -- abstained from voting.

India that abstained from voting said "This resolution calls for far-reaching measures but we never got answers to very basic questions... This entire exercise has been based on less than complete information."

"Passing a resolution is an interactive process...if countries have doubts...you try to remove them," Indian envoy to UN Hardeep Singh Puri said. "I’m afraid that the two countries leading the process (UK and France) did not make the required effort."

China's top diplomat in the UN Li Baodong also had similar apprehensions. "Many of those questions failed to be clarified or answered."

On the India and China queries, Susan Rice, US envoy to the UN, clarified it was impossible to answer all the questions given that the Council had to act quickly. "We spent many hours going over these issues," she told reporters.


(Agencies)