TRIPOLI, Libya — The Libyan government declared an immediate cease-fire Friday in a bid to head off Western military intervention on behalf of rebels seeking to overthrow longtime leader Moammar Gaddafi, hours after the U.N. Security Council authorized a no-fly zone and the use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya.
The United States, Britain and France reacted cautiously to the declaration, saying they will judge Gaddafi by his actions. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton demanded that Libyan government forces move away from eastern Libya where they have been waging an offensive against rebel-held cities. And U.S. intelligence agencies expressed skepticism about the cease-fire.
Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa told reporters Friday that as a United Nations member, Libya had no choice but to accept the U.N. Security Council resolution.
“Therefore, Libya has decided an immediate cease-fire and the stoppage of all military operations,” he said. He pledged that Libya would protect foreigners and foreign assets in the country.
Kusa also said his government would seek “the opening of dialogue with all channels interested in the territorial integrity of Libya,” suggesting that the regime might be prepared to talk to the rebels if they commit to the unity of the nation. The government has long harbored suspicions that the rebels have separatist intentions.
He said the cease-fire “will take the country back to safety” and ensure the security of all Libyans. But he also criticized the U.N. Security Council’s authorization of military action, which he said violates Libya’s sovereignty.
Musa did not elaborate on his brief statement, leaving unclear exactly what the cease-fire would mean and whether it would apply to other Libyan cities under attack from government forces or only to the front line with rebels in the east. Loyalist forces there are closing in on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city.
The CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies have seen evidence of continued fighting despite the declared cease-fire, U.S. officials said. American spy agencies have monitored the violence using intelligence assets ranging from satellites to sources inside the country.
“There are [intelligence] reports out of certain areas that fighting continues,” said a U.S. official with access to classified intelligence on Libya. “There are indications that at least some elements tied to Gaddafi may not have gotten the message on the cease-fire.”
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, said the areas of continued fighting include Misurata, a Mediterranean coastal city 130 miles east of Tripoli.
Citing concern about Gaddafi’s intentions, the U.S. official said the cease-fire “should be considered tenuous at best right now.”
Read more at The Washington Post.