March 24th, 2011
11:59 PM ET
March 24th, 2011
09:44 PM ET

NATO Taking Command of Libya's No-Fly Zone: Join the Live Chat

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/02/liveblogfinal.copy.jpg]

NATO has agreed to take the reigns from the United States and take over the mission to enforce Libya's no-fly zone, but just the no-fly zone. Plus, new explosions heard in Tripoli just moments ago. We'll have the latest from Libya and tonight's other headlines.

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Filed under: Live Blog
March 24th, 2011
08:15 PM ET

NATO may go for enforcement of 'no-fly plus'

CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - All 28 NATO allies have authorized military authorities to develop a plan for NATO to take on the broader mission of civilian protection under U.N. Resolution 1973, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday.

Clinton said she will travel to London to attend an international meeting on Libya on Tuesday.

She made her comments to reporters shortly after Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told CNN that NATO had agreed to take command of enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya and was considering taking control of the full U.N.-backed military mission.

Rasmussen's announcement fell short of what U.S. President Barack Obama has sought, and it was unclear if concerns by Turkey and some other NATO allies over coalition airstrikes on Libyan ground forces would prevent NATO from agreeing to expand its command over the entire mission.

"What we have decided today is that NATO will enforce the no-fly zone," Rasmussen told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "We are considering whether NATO should take on overall responsibility. That decision has not been made yet."

Rasmussen said he expected NATO to decide on the issue "within the coming days."

Asked if the announcement revealed a split in NATO over the mission, Rasmussen said no.

However, he also acknowledged that, if unaltered, the agreement would mean the overall Libyan mission would have two parts, with NATO enforcing the no-fly zone and the U.S.-led coalition that launched the mission handling a naval blockade and airstrikes.

The U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the mission includes a section that allows coalition forces to take other steps as necessary to protect Libyan civilians. So far, the U.S.-led coalition has interpreted that to include airstrikes on Libyan ground forces threatening the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and in other areas.

NATO sources said Turkey was uncomfortable with such a role and raised concerns about that at Thursday's meeting.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 24th, 2011
07:58 PM ET

Beat 360° 3/24/11

Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:

School children meet a life-sized baby Tyrannosaurus Rex during a preview appearance of Walking With Dinosaurs at Bialik College on March 24, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. Walking With Dinosaurs is a theatrical production that features 15 life-sized dinosaurs, the show will begin its Melbourne Tour at Hisense Arena on May 4. (Photo credit: Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

Update: Beat 360° Winners:

Tom Foreman
“And on a lighter note, to dramatize the danger of the soaring national debt, the Congressional Budget Office fed a 7th grader to a velociraptor this afternoon…”


Ken, Berkeley, CA
"Australian kids meet 'Qaddafi' and other soon-to-be-extinct Middle Eastern dinosaurs."

___________________________________________________________________________Beat 360° Challenge

Filed under: Beat 360°
March 24th, 2011
05:45 PM ET

Libyans gather for funerals of alleged victims of airstrike

CNN Wire Staff

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) - After a fifth consecutive night of pounding by coalition jets, Libyans gathered at a seaside cemetery in Tripoli on Thursday for the funerals of 33 people Moammar Gadhafi's government said were victims of an airstrike.

State television broadcast the funerals live, calling the dead victims of the "crusader colonial aggression." Earlier, a Libyan government official said coalition planes struck the suburb of Tajura and state TV showed images of fires, smoldering vehicles and the charred bodies of the dead.

CNN could not independently verify the circumstances of the deaths or who the victims were. Regardless, anger trumped grief at the cemetery and Gadhafi's message was loud and clear: innocent people were wrongly killed and the Libyan people will fight back.

Coalition leaders have reported no civilian casualties so far and said that Western jets have dropped precision bombs on military targets.

The reports of civilian deaths were given little credence by coalition forces, which launched airstrikes Thursday near Tripoli, Misrata and Ajdabiya in Libya.

"The only civilian casualties we know are for certain are the ones that the Libyan government itself has caused," U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said.

More than 350 aircraft are participating in coalition efforts in enforcing a no-fly zone and protecting populations in Libya, with slightly more than half of the aircraft from the United States, he said. Nine other nations, including Qatar, are involved in the coalition, he said.

"When and where regime forces threaten the lives of their own citizens, they will be attacked," Gortney said. He urged Libyan forces to cease fighting.

Asked whether any Libyan forces loyal to Gadhafi have quit fighting, he said, "I'm not aware of any at this particular point in time.

"We are not communicating with the opposition forces on the ground," he said in response to a question. "When it comes to the opposition military forces and our military forces, we are not communicating."

Leadership of the coalition forces is expected to change soon. A deal in principle has been reached for NATO to take command of the military mission in Libya in coming days, diplomatic officials told CNN on Thursday.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 24th, 2011
04:30 PM ET

White House defends Libya response

Alan Silverleib

Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration strongly defended its handling of the Libyan crisis Thursday, drawing a clear line between military and political objectives while dismissing criticism that it has failed to adequately consult with members of Congress.

"We are not engaged in militarily-driven regime change," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters. Instead, the administration is engaged in "time-limited, scope-limited" action with other countries to protect civilians from forces loyal to strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

American armed forces will be transitioning to a "support and assist" role in the international coalition within a matter of days, he promised. U.S. ground troops will not be sent into Libya, he stressed.

A senior Western diplomat later confirmed that a formal agreement for NATO to take over the command structure of the U.N.-sanctioned military mission will be finalized as early as this weekend.

The goal of that mission is strictly to prevent a humanitarian crisis. President Barack Obama, however, has also said the administration's ultimate objective is Gadhafi's removal from power. U.S. officials have indicated they hope Gadhafi will be removed quickly by forces currently loyal to him, though they haven't publicly called for a coup.

Carney listed a series of recent meetings, hearings and briefings by top officials - including the president - with members of Congress on Libya. The list was produced in response to accusations by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and others that the White House failed to properly consult with legislators before launching the Libyan mission.

Boehner sent a letter to the president Wednesday complaining that "military resources were committed to war without clearly defining for the American people, the Congress, and our troops what the mission in Libya is and what America's role is in achieving that mission."

Carney said the administration has "endeavored to answer (Boehner's) questions already," and noted that the speaker received a classified intelligence briefing on March 14. He also accused some critics of being "perhaps driven by politics."

Carney indicated the president will continue to speak out on Libya "with relative frequency."

A Republican source, meanwhile, told CNN that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, and National Intelligence Director James Clapper will deliver a classified briefing to members of Congress on March 30.

Hearings were also scheduled for the House Foreign Affairs and House Armed Services committees next week, according to a Democratic source.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 24th, 2011
02:00 PM ET

Doctors operating without anesthesia in Misrata hospital

CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - For days, the wounded just kept coming to the 60-bed central hospital in Misrata, a city under siege from forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. But there were no empty beds, no electricity - only generator power. No anesthesia or painkillers.

A doctor said 109 people have died in Misrata over the past week. Six were killed Thursday by Gadhafi's rooftop snipers - unseen but too often precise. More than 1,300 others have been wounded since the protests erupted in the western city last month.

People flooded the hospital, wounded in war that has raged between the opposition and Gadhafi's forces. The strongman's tanks have been pounding the city and bombs fell Thursday near the hospital, the doctor said.

Residents reported a reprieve after coalition airstrikes targeted the Libyan military. But rooftop snipers kept taking aim. And the doctors kept doing their work.

They treated patients in corridors, and operated on them even without anesthesia.

They sent people with what the doctor called lesser injuries home to recuperate - including people whose legs and arms were amputated.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 24th, 2011
01:00 PM ET

Despite grounded air force, Libyan troops still on attack

Chris Lawrence and Pam Benson

Washington (CNN) - The Libyan military has been pounded by coalition airstrikes neutralizing its air capabilities but it is still able to fight and maneuver on the ground, U.S. officials said.

The Libyan Air Force has been grounded after five days of operations by the coalition forces. More than 160 Tomahawk missiles and several hundred strikes from fighter jets have virtually destroyed Moammar Gadhafi's air defense.

The toll on the air system is "to the point where we can operate with near impunity across Libya," said Vice Marshall Greg Bagwell of Britain's Royal Air Force.

Despite the targeting of mobile launchers, Libyan forces still have numerous mobile launchers that could pose a risk to coalition planes.

But it's the ground forces where Gadhafi has more maneuverability because of the coalition's limitations in fighting Libyan forces only from the air.

Gadhafi's forces have retreated from the eastern city of Benghazi, but continue to fight in other cities including Misrata and Ajabiya using "tanks, artillery, rocket launchers," according to Rear Adm. Gerard Hueber, chief of staff for the coalition Odyssey Dawn.

The coalition is able to strike at forces moving toward cities, but once they are inside city limits, dropping bombs with enough precision to avoid civilian casualties is difficult.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 24th, 2011
12:45 PM ET

Smoke stops, work resumes at troubled Japanese nuclear plant

CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - One day after black smoke prompted an evacuation, workers returned Thursday to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant - employing myriad methods to try to prevent more radiation from seeping into the atmosphere.

After several days of setbacks and billowing smoke, authorities Thursday addressed issues at each of the facility's six reactors.

"We are working to resume (operations)," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said. "We cannot be too optimistic, and we are still taking cautious measures."

Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, an industry trade group, reported Thursday that - despite previous fears to the contrary - the No. 3 reactor's containment vessel was "not damaged."

This news came the same morning that smoke stopped rising above the reactor, according to Hidehiko Nishiyama, an official with Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

He said the cause of the smoke remains unknown, speculating it may have come from burning oil or machinery nearby.

On Wednesday, the same day the black smoke appeared, Edano said three workers were exposed to water contaminated by radioactive material while laying cable in the No. 3 reactor's turbine building. They stepped into the water, which seeped into the shoes of two of the men, according to Tokyo Electric Power Company.

All three men were exposed to between 173 and 181 millisieverts of radiation, and two went to a hospital for treatment, a Tokyo Electric Power Co. official said.

A person in an industrialized country is naturally exposed to 3 millisieverts a year. But Japan's health ministry recently raised the maximum level of exposure for a person working to address the crisis at the nuclear plant from 100 millisieverts to 250 millisieverts per year.

The three workers reached the highest level of millisieverts recorded so far, Tokyo Electric said. The two admitted to the hospital were a man in his 30s who was exposed to 180.7 millisieverts, and a man in his 20s who tested at 179.37 millisieverts. The third man, who was exposed to 173 millisieverts, did not go to the hospital, as his boots were high enough to cover his skin, Tokyo Electric said.

Seventeen workers so far have been exposed to radiation at levels over 100 millisieverts, Tokyo Electric said Thursday, including the three involved in the water incident.

By Thursday, work had resumed at that reactor. Beginning shortly after 5:30 a.m., crews began injecting about 500 tons of seawater into it, Nishiyama said.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 24th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #794 'The fading spotlight'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: Hollywood is marking the passing of a legend, just as I am in my daily letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

I was quite surprised by the news of Elizabeth Taylor’s death. Surprised because I had no idea it was imminent despite some of her health problems in recent years, and because, to be frank, I really haven’t thought of her in some time.

I mean no disrespect. To the contrary, I’ve enjoyed many of her films. The way she could tilt her head and flash those eyes at the camera, hurl a vicious line, or coo a soft one was true art. She was a bona fide movie star from an era when there really were such people, and keeping up such a career for so many years is an impressive feat.