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U.S. Cites Early Success as Forces Press Libya; Gadhafi Promises a ‘Long War’

A Libyan rebel stands over wrecked military vehicles hit by French warplanes. Photo by AFP/Getty.

With military operation Odyssey Dawn underway in Libya, the country’s embattled leader, Moammar Gadhafi, vowed a “long war” with his adversaries on Sunday.

The U.S. military said 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired in a nighttime barrage from American and British ships and submarines at more than 20 coastal targets to destabilize Libyan air defenses. U.S. and European forces are working to enforce a U.N. resolution that enacted a no-fly zone, but also authorized allies to “take all necessary measures” to prevent Gadhafi’s forces from attacking civilians.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said the military operation “went very well” and that a no-fly zone is effectively in place.

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The U.S. Navy released this video of a Tomahawk missile launch in the Mediterranean sea as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn:


Meanwhile, Gadhafi promised a “long war” in an audio broadcast played on state TV, Gadhafi said “we will not leave our land and we will liberate it” and claimed there were protests “everywhere” against the coalition action. He also said Tripoli would arm its civilians to fight back.

“We will exterminate every traitor and collaborator with America, Britain, France and the crusader coalition,” the Libyan leader said, according to media reports. “They shall be exterminated in Benghazi or any other place.”

State television said 48 people died in the U.S. and European strikes.

Updated 3:30 p.m. ET:

The Arab League’s secretary general, Amr Moussa, on Sunday criticized the broad scope of the U.S.-European bombing and missile attacks on Tripoli and Libyan ground forces.

“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone. And what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians,” he said in a statement on the official Middle East News Agency.

Moussa said he would call another meeting of the league to reconsider approval of the Western military’s intervention. Western leaders used the March 12 Arab League approval of a no-fly zone as a reason to pass the U.N. resolution imposing one.

The New York Times reports that some Gadhafi supporters have gathered around his compound in Tripoli to act as human shields and show their support for the Libyan leader.

Military-watchers are asking whether the U.S. is playing a leading, or secondary, role in the operation as well as about the future for Gadhafi after the international intervention.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on Fox News Sunday that he wants the Arab world to see the U.S. as a partner and that Gadhafi’s rule should end.

“This is a great opportunity to replace a tyrannical dictator who is not a legitimate leader, who is an international crook. And we should seize the moment and talk about replacing him, not talking about how limited we will be,” he said.

But Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said the U.S. should not go beyond its U.N. mandate in Libya to ensure the no-fly zone and not deploy ground forces.

“I think the president has rightly ruled that out,” Reed said.

Read the full transcript of their remarks.

Army Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, is leading the coalition effort in Libya and plans to hand off command to a coalition commander within days, Mullen said. The U.S. then will move to a more support role in an effort involving more nations including Arab countries.

The coalition now includes the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Italy, Qatar, Belgium, Norway and Denmark, said Navy Vice Adm. William Gortney.

Several other news organizations are tracking developments in Libya. Among them, Al Jazeera English has a live blog; BBC News has a live blog and news stream; the Telegraph has a live blog; and The New York Times is tracking events, with features like this interactive map of the Libya rebellion.

We’ll have more here on the Rundown as events warrant and more analysis of all of these developments on Monday’s NewsHour.

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