-- Air strikes against Libyan
leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces are among options
being discussed as diplomats try to
hammer out a U.N. Security Council resolution
a diplomatic source said.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. raised the possibility
of "going beyond a no-fly zone,"
Wednesday as Gadhafi's troops pounded the rebel-held
cities of Misrata and Ajdabiya.
Ambassador Susan Rice said a "range of
actions" were up for serious discussion, including
but not limited to
no-fly zone, which has "inherent limitations in
terms of protection of civilians."
Putting UN troops on the ground would be better.
The international community is keenly aware of the
urgency and gravity of the situation on ground, Rice
continued. She said she hopes to see a serious
resolution as early as Thursday.
On the ground in Libya on Wednesday, there
were airstrikes, heavy bombardment and
fighting between the rebels and pro-Gadhafi
forces after the rebels were able to take
control of some positions in the eastern
Libyan city of Ajdabiya overnight.
Thousands of government forces eventually
gathered outside Ajdabiya with dozens of heavy
artillery pieces, radar control weapons systems and
about a dozen tanks, CNN's Nic Robertson reported
from just outside the city.
AK-47s and Katyusha rockets were among the
weapons carried by government soldiers, who appeared
jubilant and confident about a possible upcoming
battle for the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
The troops were carried in white pickups, many of
which were covered in dirt for camouflage purposes.
Witnesses said pro-Gadhafi snipers were
positioned in various parts of the city.
Ajdabiya is the last major point between
pro-government forces and Benghazi. If it is retaken
by pro-Gadhafi forces, it would give access to roads
leading to the heart of the opposition's base.
In Misrata, west of Ajdabiya, Gadhafi "is bombing
his way into the city," witness Mohamed Ali said.
"He doesn't care if all the people (there) are dead
by the end of the day."
Ali accused Gadhafi of launching a "cowardly,
"People are not safe. It's amazing that this is
happening," Ali said, adding that two people have
been killed and 15 injured, one "very critically."
He said Gadhafi's forces had not yet been able to
get into the city.
Ali described described himself as a 46-year-old
IT engineer and a member of the local opposition
council. He called himself a rebel fighter but said
he had no weapons.
The rebels are fighting with whatever arms they
can capture from government troops, he said, such as
CNN journalists in Libya were not able to reach
Misrata to confirm Ali's account. But a second
witness also said the city came under sustained
attack by forces loyal to Gadhafi on Wednesday.
The tank and artillery fire went on for at least
two hours, he said.
"We hear very, very, very loud explosions," said
the witness, who did not want to be named. "They
have cut off electricity and water."
Meanwhile, four New York Times journalists
covering the conflict were reported missing by the
newspaper Wednesday. Editors said they had received
second-hand information that some of the reporting
team "had been swept up by Libyan government forces"
Government forces said they had no information
about the missing journalists and said that if they
were picked up by the Libyan military, they would
have been taken back to Tripoli.
Gadhafi's battles to recapture a number of
rebel-held towns and cities came on the day the
United Nations Security Council considered imposing
a no-fly zone over Libya. Wednesday ended with no
agreement on a draft resolution, but several
diplomats expressed optimism that a vote would come
Lebanon's U.N. ambassador, Nawaf Salam, said Arab
countries are committed to participating in a no-fly
zone. That has been an apparent prerequisite for
U.S. support of such a zone.
The Lebanese diplomat wouldn't detail the level
of potential Arab participation but said it would be
"significant" and said it has "been confirmed by the
highest political authorities."
Without implementation of a no-fly zone, rebels
fear that it is only a matter of time before there
is a bloodbath in Benghazi.
deputy ambassador to the U.N. expressed this fear
Wednesday. Gadhafi "has given instructions for
ethnic cleansing," Ibrahim Dabbashi said, adding
that the Libyan leader would commit genocide against
rebels if he was not stopped by the international
Dabbashi said he expects the Security Council to
produce a draft resolution soon. "International
consensus is in the process of building," Dabbashi
said in the Security Council's briefing room.
Dabbashi made headlines in February when he
joined with Libyan Ambassador to the U.N. Mohamed
Shalgham to condemn Gadhafi and request that he step
down as Libya's leader.
Libya's government has subsequently requested
that Dabbashi and Shalgham be denied the right to
speak for Libya at the United Nations.
marched in Benghazi on Wednesday, carrying banners
reading, "how many Libyans must die to get the
Security Council to move on."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told
reporters Wednesday that opinions in a number of
countries initially opposed to the imposition of a
no-fly zone shifted after the Arab League announced
its support for such a step.
"Intense negotiations" are underway at the
Security Council, she said. "We are moving as
rapidly as we can to get additional authorization."
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout, Arwa Damon, Nic
Robertson, Tommy Evans, Elise Labott, Alan
Silverleib, Raja Razek, Richard Roth, Joe Vaccarello,
Eleonora Corsini, Yousuf Basil and Reza Sayah, and
journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this