Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's regime declared an immediate ceasefire and new talks with rebels following a strongly-worded United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing "all necessary measures" to protect the nation's civilians. The measure, which allows everything but boots on the ground, stopped fighting around the rebel capital of Benghazi but has not completely ended the battle.
Al-Jazeera English and Al Arabiya television report continued shelling of isolated rebel strongholds, like the towns of Misrata and Ajdabiya, but security is returning to Benghazi.
The quiet may be a temporary lull in the Libyan anti-rebel campaign, as the regime sends conflicting messages. Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, said earlier Friday that "anti-terror" forces would disarm rebel forces after the army had surrounded Benghazi. He also rejected the ceasefire and claimed that there was "no bloodshed in Libya." Shortly thereafter, Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa announced that the regime had ceased operations and would cooperate.
Gaddafi himself threatened Thursday to strike France, a leader in imposing a military solution in the country, and to bomb passenger planes in response to the resolution. "Lo and behold, France has begun to raise its head, talking about striking Libya. You think attacking Libya is an easy thing, you idiot," asked Gaddafi. "We will strike you. We struck you in Algeria, we struck you in Vietnam... We struck you. You will strike us?! Just come and try it."
Gaddafi's ceasefire announcement has not stopped military planning against the Libyan regime. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that she was not "impressed by words" from Gaddafi but "would have to see actions on the ground." British Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers that the U.K. would have military jets available for action "in the coming hours." Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Qatar and the United States have offered air support for the operation, while Italy has also pledged air bases.
The Libyan move "is game-playing and it would be folly for the West to fall for it," said Barak Seener, Middle East research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. "It's a stalling tactic and he's attempting to create fissures within the international community." It's also generating mixed reviews in the Arab street, with some seeing it as neo-colonialism and others trumpeting the symbolic message to dictators in the regime.