US led coalition bombs targets inside Libya for a third straight day listen03/21/11 wire reports including AP
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The U.S. commander in Africa says coalition jets fired 12 more cruise missiles at Libyan missile, command and air defense sites as they continued to press a no-fly zone over the North African nation.
The attacks today followed a weekend of punishing air strikes aimed at preventing Moammar Gadhafi's forces from killing civilians seeking his ouster.
General Carter Ham said not much was known about Gadhafiâ€™s whereabouts. Speaking by video conference from his headquarters in Germany, Ham told Pentagon reporters that the international coalition is focusing instead on knocking out Libya's ability to command and control its forces.
"I have no mission to attack that person and we are not doing so. We are not seeking his where abouts or anything like that. We have no mission to support opposition forces if they should engage in offensive operations. U.S. and British forces launched 12 Tomahawk land attack missiles targeting regime command and control facilities, a SCUD surface to surface missile facility and a re-attack of an air defense site which had previously been attacked."
Ham says that a stalemate with Gadhafi is possible outcome.
Navy Vice Admiral William E. Gortney says the air strikes have been "very effective," and the Pentagon believes Gadhafi's military is "under significant stress."
The assault has included B-2 stealth bombers, jet fighters, more than 120 Tomahawk cruise missiles and other high-tech weapons. Gortney says no allied planes have been lost and all pilots have returned safely.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. expects to relinquish control of the mission "in a matter of days." but others have said it could be several weeks.
The U.N. Security Council is meeting privately at this hour to discuss Libya's accusations about the international military intervention and its request for an emergency meeting of the U.N.'s most powerful body.
President Obama has been criticized for visiting South America so soon after the this weekendâ€™s U.S.-led attack on Libya. He spoke today in Chile.
"Our military action is in support of an international mandate from the Security Council that specifically focuses on the humanitarian threat posed by Colonel Gadhafi to his people. Not only was he carrying out murders of civilians but he threatened more. He said very specifically, 'we will show no mercy' to people who lived in Benghazi. In the face of that the international community rallied and said, 'we have to stop any potential atrocities inside of Libya' and provided a broad mandate to accomplish that specific task. As part of that international coalition I authorized the United States military to work with our international partners to fulfill that mandate."
Meanwhile, the Turkish Ambassador to the U.S., Namik Tan, says the four New York Times journalists who have been held by Libya are now safely in U.S. custody.
"All of a sudden the bombardment by the coalition forces started and immediately afterwards, Libyans changed their mind."
Russia's prime minister is strongly criticizing the U.N. resolution allowing international use of force in Libya, saying it reminds him of the Crusades. Russia abstained in the U.N. Security Council vote on the resolution authorizing force.
And Italy is warning that it will review the use of seven of its bases by coalition forces for strikes against Libya if the mission doesn't pass to NATO's command.
Other countries remain part of the international military coalition including England, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates
In Cairo, a group of protesters angry about international intervention in Libya blocked the path of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as he left a meeting at the Arab League.