David Blackburn

French planes take to the skies as Sarko talks tough

French planes take to the skies as Sarko talks tough
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And so it starts. French News Channel BFM reports that French fighter jets are airborne over Libyan skies; al Jazeera corroborates the report, adding that these are reconnaissance missions.

By the sounds of things, French military sources are briefing international agencies, adding to the sense that the domestically troubled President Sarkozy wants to capitalise on his sudden international prominence.

Sarkozy has just been speaking outside the summit meeting in Paris, which he hosted as Chairman of the G20 and G8. His words were stern:

"In Libya, a civilian population which is passive which requires nothing further than the right to choose itself its destiny finds itself in danger of life. We have a duty to respond to its angst-ridden call.

"The future of Libya belongs to the Libyans. We do not want to take a decision on their behalf. The fight that they are undergoing is their's. If we intervene on the side of Arab nations, it is not to impose on the Libyan people, but to apply to a universal conscience that cannot tolerate such crimes.

"Today, our intervening in Libya with the mandate of the UNSC, with our partners, namely our Arab partners, we do it to protect the civilian population, and to protect it from the deadly madness of a regime which by assassinating and killing its own people has lost any legitimacy. We intervene to allow the Libya people to choose itself, its destiny.

"It cannot be prevented from these rights through terror and violence.

"There is still time for Colonel Gaddafi to avoid the worst by agreeing unreservedly to all the requirements of the international community.

"The door of diplomacy will reopen when the fighting will stop. Our determination is total, and I say it with solemnity. Everyone now finds themselves faced with their responsibilities. It is a serious decision that we have been forced to take, together with our Arab partners, our European partners, our North American partners, France has decided to take up its role in front of history."