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French Warplanes Hit Libyan Target; Pentagon Confirms: U.S. Has Fired Tomahawks Missiles at Libyan Air Defenses; British PM David Cameron Makes Statement Supporting U.N. Resolution Against Libya; Emergency Meeting in London; French Jets Deployed Over Libya; Pres. Obama in Brazil; President Sarkozy Delivers Statement; Japanese Nuclear Workers Hustle to Cool Reactor

Aired March 19, 2011 - 15:00   ET


HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: There is support in the Arab world for the U.N.'s no-fly zone resolution in Libya. There is support. How much involvement Arab countries will have is an open question.

CNN's Reza Sayah joins us now from Cairo.

Do we know what countries have pledged support and what form that support will take, Reza?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When you listen to the statement from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she named a number of countries that participated in the summit earlier today in Paris, among them Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Iraq.

But when asked what type of role exactly these countries will play in implementing the no-fly zone, it wasn't clear. She said that is for those countries to announce.

But it is very clear that the U.S., France, the U.K., and other western powers don't want to create the perception globally that this is strictly a Western action against an Arab nation. They want to make sure that the world knows its Arab partners are involved.

Again, is that role is going to be a symbolic role or is it going to be a more active role where you have perhaps jet fighters deployed? Of course, it was the Arab League, the block of 22 Arab nations one week ago today here in Cairo that first voted to support a no-fly zone over Libya. The Arab League calling for the U.N. Security Council to push ahead with the implementation of the no-fly zone.

Today here in Cairo, the head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, we caught up with him right after he voted in the nationwide referendum. And he reiterated the Arab League's supports the no-fly zone, but he also emphasized this is not to be a military action, an invasion. No one is talking about invading Libya.

But certainly when you look at countries like France and listen to statements by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the rhetoric from him has been aggressive. He suggested that perhaps we should attack targets on the ground. And when you look at how the resolution is written up, it certainly leads the possibility of attacks targets on the ground open. So it's going to be interesting to see how the Arab League, how Arab nations will react if indeed this operation becomes more offensive.

GORANI: Reza, and these countries have military capabilities. We know the United States among other countries sells fighter jets to countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE. Will they use any of those military capabilities in the enforcement of this no-fly zone?

SAYAH: Again, at this point, it's not clear. When you look at countries like Qatar and Jordan, they do have jet fighters. Perhaps the most modern and the largest the fleet of jet fighters is in the United Arab Emirates. They have about 80 F16s - U.S. made F16s and about 70 French-made Mirages. But those jet fighters could be on the ground or they could be used and these countries may not go public with it.

It was very interesting. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said some Arab nations may contribute, but they may not make their contributions public, which was interesting.

GORANI: OK. Thanks very much, Reza Sayah live in Cairo with that angle, with Arab countries within the Arab League pledging their support for the enforcement of a no-fly zone.

But it's funny - it's sort of interesting to see that the UAE on the one hand is supporting the enforcement of a no-fly zone against the Gadhafi regime, at the same time sending troops to Bahrain within the GCC Force present in that country to sort of help the government against its protests. So there's -

WHITFIELD: Yes. There are mixed messages going on.

GORANI: There are mixed messages and mixed actions as well. It's not a black and white picture. It sort of got shades of gray.

WHITFIELD: That's right. And there have been a lot of meetings, not just the meeting in Paris that involved a lot of countries worldwide, who were trying to come together on this mission.

But we also understand there's been a crisis meeting taking place in London as well. We find our Atika Shubert, who is joining us from London to talk about this meeting that was led by the British Prime Minister David Cameron - Atika.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes. That's right. I'm actually at Downing Street now and that meeting is ongoing. This is the emergency meeting that what they call Cobra here in the U.K. and Prime Minister David Cameron is chairing it.

This is sort of an emergency meeting can be called for a number of situations. This one obviously is one of international strategic importance. Most likely, of course, he will be briefing everybody about what was discussed in Paris and also discussing what British military resources will be used to this effort. Now, we do know from earlier statements that the prime minister had said that British - British jets such as the typhoon and the torpedo would be used to prevent Libyan ground forces and air forces from being used to attack areas like Benghazi. We'll have to see if there are any more details like that coming out later tonight.

WHITFIELD: All right. Atika Shubert, thanks so much, joining us from London. Appreciate that.

GORANI: All right. Let's get back to our developing Breaking News story out of Libya, and it started today with the news that French fighter jets were circling over Libya and that French war planes fired on a Libyan military vehicle a short time ago. The pilots, of course, enforcing that U.N. sanction of no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians.

WHITFIELD: We're going to go to Arwa Damon, who is now in the northeastern section of that country of Libya.

So, Arwa, it is nightfall there now. Last report, you said it's been very quiet. Does it remain to be the case now?

It looks like we do not have Arwa Damon now. We'll try to reconnect with her.

We will be right back with more of our coverage right after this.


WHITFIELD: All right. As we continue to watch the developments over Libya, French fighter jets flying over, even targeting a military vehicle. We also get some reaction from a lot of our reporters who are all over the world. Not just in Libya, of course, out of Washington and even Paris.

GORANI: Right. Jim Bittermann is standing by with more. Jim, of course, we know this is the beginning of the air campaign to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya. How far is France ready to go in all of this? It could take longer than a few days.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly could, Hala. And I think that's one of the things that may be open for debate here as this rolls along a little bit.

I think initially, though, there's pretty well consensus on what's taking place right now. We see political leaders on both sides of the aisle that are basically supporting this action. In fact, Sarkozy got some high marks from what some people who are normally is opponents about the way he handled this diplomatically getting this coalition together.

So I think politically for the moment, it's a fairly good consensus. Whether it will stay for a long period of time, I don't know. And it depends on how bad and how long this happens to go.

At the moment, though, the French are committing a great deal of resources. They've been very forward leaning on this issue all the way from the beginning. They've taken the leadership role as Hillary Clinton said. And, in fact, they really want to appear to be out there for any number of reasons, probably not the least of which is that President Sarkozy was stunned and embarrassed by a visit here by Moammar Gadhafi a few years back which Gadhafi set up his tent in the Elysee Palace Garden grounds - across the street from Elysee Palace.

As a consequence, he was widely criticized by a lot of - of political opponents. And I think that one of the things that he wanted to show in this operation was that he is not somewhat cozied up to Gadhafi. That - that it was nothing more than expediency at the time.

In any case, I think that they will definitely go the - go the distance here in terms of committing military power. They've already shown it today at the time when some of the other allies are still debating exactly what they want to commit and how they want to commit those resources - Hala.

GORANI: And the French seem behind it and the French population isn't skittish right now about military involvement in a country that could become very complicated down the road.

BITTERMANN: I expect we're going to see some polls on this tomorrow, Hala, just because Sunday is a favorite day for the French to be polling themselves and seeing what they think.

But, in fact, a poll earlier about two weeks ago, there was a poll out that indicated that the French were not behind military intervention in North Africa and was - I don't know if it was directed strictly at Libya, but at other - at other North African countries that was in the midst of these uprisings.

But in any case, it was a poll that indicates they did not support military intervention by French troops. So it will be interesting to see if there are some more polls coming out tomorrow that may give us a clear indication on how they feel about this Libya intervention - Hala.

GORANI: All right. Thanks. Jim bittermann, live in Paris.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, American President Barack Obama is in Brazil. He's on the first stop of the Latin American tour that was planned with the focus on jobs and exports. Of course, he is now also talking a bit about Libya.

GORANI: Right. Well, remember Brazil was one of the five nations that abstained. It wasn't a no vote, but it was an abstention from the resolution voted at the United Nations.

WHITFIELD: CNN's Ed Henry is traveling with the president. So, Ed, give us an idea how much or how little the president was willing to say while in Brazil?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he tried to keep it very brief, Fred. Because he is trying to keep the focus here on the ground in Latin America during his five-day tour on trade, the economy - pardon me - and trying to bring more exports here to Brazil and other countries in Latin America to make sure that's bringing U.S. jobs back home.

But he, of course, had to address the start of military action in Libya. He's been getting a lot of briefings. We're told he got one face-to-face briefing by his National Security Advisor Tom Donilon here on the ground in Brazil. He also took a phone call from the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who has as you've been noting, was in Paris and meeting with key allies.

And there's a very a clear message coming out of this administration in the brief comments that the president made as well as the larger comments that Secretary Clinton made. Which is at number one, they're saying there would be unspeakable atrocities in the words of Secretary Clinton committed by Colonel Gadhafi if the U.S. and its allies did not act.

Secondly, the president and the secretary made clear again and again in their comments that this is not unilateral U.S. action. They're very sensitive to that charge, because of Iraq, because of Afghanistan. They made it very clear they have international partners and cooperation here.

And, finally, the administration is making it very clear that while the U.S. will have a role here, they are not sending ground troops to Libya. That's a very clear direct message they want to send to the American people and they want to send to the world - Hala, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Ed Henry.

GORANI: We'll have a lot more out of Libya and around the world with our continuing breaking news coverage after this.


WHITFIELD: French fighter jets are making good on President Nicolas Sarkozy's promise to use all mean necessary to stop Moammar Ghadafi's assault on Libyan civilians.

GORANI: All right. The first air strike came soon after Mr. Sarkozy delivered a strong warning from the international community. Here is his statement.


PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRANCE (through translator): Today, the leaders of the League of Arab States, the - the European Union, U.S. and Canadian representatives met in Paris, under joint chairmanship of France and the U.N. Secretary-General.

Together, we have decided to ensure the application of the Security Council resolution demanding immediate cease-fire and an end to violence against civil populations in Libya. Participants agreed to use all the necessary means, in particular military means, to enforce the Security Council decisions. This is why, in agreement with our partners, our Air Force will oppose any aggression by Colonel Gadhafi against the population of Benghazi.

As of now, our aircraft are preventing planes from attacking the town. As of now, other French aircrafts are ready to intervene against tanks, armored vehicles threatening unarmed civilians. As of yesterday, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and Arab countries sent Colonel Gadhafi and the forces he's using the following warning. If there is not an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of the forces that have been attacking civilian populations in the last few weeks, our countries will have recourse to military means. This warning was endorsed by all participants at the summit that has just concluded.

Colonel Gadhafi has totally ignored this warning. In the last few hours, his forces have stepped up their deadly offensives.

Arab peoples have chosen to free themselves from the enslavement in which they have felt trapped for too long. These revolts have given rise to great hopes in the hearts of all those who share the values of democracy and human rights. But they're not without risk. The future of these Arab peoples belongs to them. Amidst the many different difficulties and ordeals they must confront, these Arab peoples need our help and support, and it is our duty to provide it.

In Libya, a peaceful civilian population, demanding nothing more than the right to choose its own destiny, is in mortal danger. It is our duty to respond to their anguished appeal.

The future of Libya belongs to the Libyans. We do not seek to decide for them. Their fight for freedom is theirs. Our intervention alongside Arab peoples is not with a view to imposing any specific outcome on them, but in the name of the universal conscience that will not tolerate such crimes.

Today, we are intervening in Libya under a United Nations Security Council mandate, alongside our partners, in particular, our Arab partners. And we are doing this in order to protect the civilian populations from the murderous madness of a regime that, by killing its own people, has forfeited all legitimacy. We are intervening in order to enable the Libyan people to choose its own destiny. It must not be deprived of its rights by violence and terror.

There is still time for Colonel Gadhafi to avoid the worst by complying immediately and unreservedly with all the demands of the international community. The doors of diplomacy will open once again when the aggression stops.

Our determination is total. I say this with all solemnity, all those concerned must now face up to their responsibilities. It is a grave decision that we have come to take. Alongside its Arab partners, European partners, North American partners, France is resolved to shoulder its role before history.

Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: There are more points of view coming out of Paris. We'll get to our State Department correspondent Jill Dougherty in a moment. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also there in Paris earlier today.

Meantime, I'll let you - get you back to Northeastern Libya, and that's where we find our Arwa Damon. She is there.

We know that French war planes have been firing on Libyan and military vehicles. What kind of activity are you seeing where you are?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Fredricka, in the city of Benghazi was where we saw that assault earlier today. So far, it does seem as if the opposition does manage to retain control of the city.

Based on everything that we have heard and seen, it does appear as if the opposition did manage to drive out Colonel Gadhafi's advancing tanks and military units, one eyewitness telling us that he saw the tanks coming down from the southern part of the city. We also saw a number of artillery strikes. A member of our team saw those tanks advancing as well and firing on civilian buildings.

We went down just a few hours ago to survey the damage. There were a number of buildings that were destroyed. One man from that area said that he saw the Gadhafi forces firing from their heavy machine guns mounted on top of their vehicles, saying that they were smiling and laughing the entire time.

Everyone at that point was asking where this international help was. Where were those aircrafts? Where was the implementation of the resolution that stated that all necessary means would be used to protect the civilian population?

Now, we do know, of course, that there are French jets overhead, and that is coming as something of a relief to the population here because they do fully expect that Gadhafi is going to try to strike the city once again. But with that overhead protection, now they think they have a fighting chance - Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Arwa Damon, thank you so much, coming from Northeastern Libya.

GORANI: Well, we heard tough talk from the French president, followed by swift action. In fact, I think the action took place even before the talk. France is clearly taking the lead in this international effort.

WHITFIELD: And the fact that Saturday's meeting between the U.S., European and Arab leaders took place in Paris really underscores that fact and the real symbolism coming behind this kind of coalition on this mission.

State Department correspondent Jill Dougherty is in Paris. She joins us now with more on all that was accomplished and maybe some unfinished business as well. JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, accomplished would be this agreement to use all necessary means to help this help to the - this coalition now to carry out that U.N. resolution. And the whole idea of it, Secretary Clinton was asked, what is the main purpose? And she said it's to stop the humanitarian attacks, the humanitarian disaster that could unfold. And then, of course, in the long run, the position of the United States government and others here, is to have Moammar Gadhafi step down.

But those are really, at this point, two separate things. They - they are watching very carefully. In fact, it was a very dramatic time here because you had the people in that room who were determining what this coalition would do, watching, getting information from their military advisors on what was happening on the ground in Libya. And so that - that was their determination.

But, now, the - as I said, the primary thing is to make sure that if it does slow down, if he - if Moammar Gadhafi does stop that offense, then what is next? Will he carry out what the international community wants him to do?

GORANI: Jill, this is Hala. We're hearing reports that the French foreign minister has said that this military action will continue unless Gadhafi complies with the U.N. resolution, but there has to be some worry from these allies, from this coalition that this will become a long drawn-out affair that will become complicated and possibly deadly and unpopular.

DOUGHERTY: That is absolutely true because, in fact, even before this happened, back in Washington, I was speaking with a senior administration official who said precisely that, that there is no clarity on what Moammar Gadhafi would do.

There could be several scenarios. He might comply for a while. He might pull back his troops, bide his time, and then start all over again. Or, if he simply pulled back and they went into this kind of stasis, the country, in effect, would be split in half. That could be a real problem. And then are the domestic - the people in the countries that are participating willing to stick it out?

So there are a lot of unknowns. And one of the worries, of course, was, when wounded, figuratively speaking, what would Gadhafi do? Would he strike back? Would he use terrorism as he has before? Would he resort to weapons of mass destruction, as he has before?

So those are all of the considerations that are ongoing.

WHITFIELD: Jill Dougherty, thanks so much, from Paris. We appreciate that.

GORANI: All right. Our coverage of the unfolding breaking news story out of Libya will continue. And after the break we'll also go live to Japan for an update on the crisis at the quake-ravaged nuclear plant. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: All right. We're going to turn to our other big story of the day, for a week now, actually. Japan, there is an urgent push to get a damaged nuclear power plant cooled down.

GORANI: Yes. And these high levels of radiation, this is another cause for concern on top of everything else. High levels of radiation found in milk and spinach in Japan.

WHITFIELD: This was one of the greatest fears of people, it getting into the food supply.

CNN's Brian Todd joining us live now from Tokyo. I imagine even though it's about 200 miles away from the epicenter people in Tokyo are extremely concerned about the contamination of food.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, Fredricka and Hala. They are concerned about that, they're concerned about whether that food might be shipped out of those areas to other areas of Japan and investigators are looking into maybe halting those shipments or at least moderating those shipments until they know more about what's going on.

To keep this in perspective, one Japanese official told us about this, yes, there were trace amounts testing positive for radiation in milk and spinach in that Fukushima prefecture and a neighboring one. But one of the officials said if you measure the milk, the - the level of radiation in the milk, compare it if you took - if you drank that milk, contaminated milk, for a year consistently, it would be about the same amount of radiation that you would get as you would in one CAT scan.

So they're trying to at least putting this danger in perspective. But still, they're investigating this. They're taking every precaution that they can, and so that - that part of this is underway.

But another part of the nuclear reactor situation has taken a positive step and that is the efforts to cool down that troubled number three reactor at the Fukushima plant. The mechanisms are spraying water into that plant, two large fire trucks have had success today.

They have been able to cool down the building for one and we were told not long ago that when they measured the radiation levels around that particular building, they found near zero traces of radiation.

A temporary foot forward possibly, but a very significant one. It may signify that we may have turned a corner in the effort to prevent more leakage out of the plant.

WHITFIELD: A few glimmers of hope there. Thanks so much, Brian Todd.

GORANI: Let's look at other news stories around the world.

Egyptians have voted today in what is seen as its first free elections in decades. The vote is on constitutional amendments. It will set the stage for parliamentary elections later this year at least that's the plan. The referendum follows the uprising that forced President Hosni Mubarak out of office.

WHITFIELD: And former Secretary of State Warren Christopher has died of complications from kidney and bladder cancer. He was 85 years old. Christopher served as America's chief diplomat for four years during President Bill Clinton's administration.

GORANI: And in Wisconsin, a judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday against the state's controversial budget law. This is the law that curbs the union power of most public workers.

The judge's action comes after Wisconsin Senate Democrats filed a complaint saying the bill's passage violated the open meeting clause.

WHITFIELD: And after the break, the search and rescue teams in Japan.


WHITFIELD: More now on the Japan crisis.

For the last week, American search and rescue teams have been in Japan assisting the Japanese government. They've been looking for survivors of the earthquake and tsunami.

John Lenihan is the chief of the Los Angeles Urban Search and Rescue team.

So, John, what's been the progress for your team while in Japan?

JOHN LENIHAN, L.A. URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM: Well, for the last week, we have been working alongside our partners the Fairfax County team under the guidance of the United State Agency for International Development.

And with the government of Japan directing us, we have done search and rescue operations and unfortunately not found any survivors. We have done some recovery. At this point, the government of Japan is determined they don't have any more missions for us.

WHITFIELD: Really? So does that mean your exit?

LENIHAN: Yes, Fairfax and L.A. County search and rescue teams departed Japan, the Misawa Air Force Base this morning. They are en route back to Los Angeles and subsequently back to Dallas.

The government of Japan has a lot of resources on the ground and we were able to assist them along with other international teams. They've determined that at this point our assignments are complete in the prefectures that we have been operating.

WHITFIELD: And so how discouraging is this though for your team while being there for a week and not finding any survivors instead having to concentrate on recovery?

LENIHAN: Well, certainly we want to be there to rescue survivors. If there are survivors to be found, we want to be participating and use our skills and tools to accomplish that. Just like in New Zealand, the opportunity for people to survive just was not in the cards. Certainly survivability has to do with where you are at the time of collapse or at the time of the calamity.

WHITFIELD: So what other comparisons are you able to make between Japan and what took place in New Zealand with the operations there as well as in Haiti?

LENIHAN: Well, all three of them are markedly different. The type of construction in New Zealand, it was a lot like the United States, very strongly built, but they didn't have the tsunami that kind of became the one-two punch in Japan.

So we certainly did not have the debris field spread out as it did in Japan. In New Zealand, they were concentrated where the buildings where. In Japan, you had hundreds and hundreds of miles of search area that you needed to accomplish.

WHITFIELD: All right, I know the Japanese appreciate your efforts. Thanks so much for you time with us and all the best to the rest of your crew as they make their way back state side. John Lenihan, the chief of the Los Angeles Urban Search and Rescue team.

GORANI: Well, coming up, a look at the possible pitfalls for western powers when it comes to getting involved in Libya.

WHITFIELD: The path forward could be tricky. A former NATO commander weighs in.


WHITFIELD: So we have been watching developments in Libya where French fighter jets have fired on a Libyan military vehicle.

GORANI: Let's bring in CNN contributor General Wesley Clark. He's a former NATO Supreme Allied commander. Joining us from Little Rock, Arkansas.

All right, so we're seeing the French clearly take the lead. There are various reports of how many times they have fired whether or not they have taken out tanks or other type military vehicles.

What should we be -- what is your observation on the first initial sort of period there as this enforcement of the no-fly zone operation commences?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'm encouraged that the French got the aircraft up. There are reports that they took out the tanks. That is encouraging. Hopefully they were all tanks that were manned and operated by Gadhafi's people. It was taken out without causing collateral damage.

But the real question is now what's the - what's the impact of this on further actions by Gadhafi and his team. Do they then fall back and say the international community really means it? Let's stop. Or do they say, hurry up, push through, it doesn't matter if we lose tank crews and get this job done before they can do anything else. So that's probably the calculation going on tonight right now inside Libyan headquarters.

So in order to block that calculation, we have to be sure if you are the coalition enforcing this that you've got adequate force that this wasn't a one-time tap. No bombing pause. This is a continuous application of force until Gadhafi breaks. And you have to do this to maintain the protection of the people there.

WHITFIELD: So, General, let me ask you this because we've got this confirmation now. CNN is able to confirm now that the U.S. has actually launched its first missiles against Libya.

If that is indeed the case following the kind of military activity we have been talking about involving the French. What does this tell you about the operation and the direction in which it's going?

CLARK: It sounds to me like it is moving toward escalation. That is important because in an operation like this, once you are engaged, you have to achieve escalation dominance.

If you don't achieve escalation dominance, you give your adversary the hope he can ride it out and trump you and win and so the escalation dominance is the key factor.

The U.S. missile, the addition of U.S. missile combat power adds to that since Gadhafi's people will have overwhelming force applied by the coalition.

GORANI: What targeting are they taking out? We know the French fighter jets went for military vehicles and tanks. According to many reports, there were more than four strikes. What about an American Tomahawk missile? What is that seeking out?

CLARK: It has to go against a fixed installation. They're not going to be able to effectively target from a sea launched cruise missiles like that, a mobile force.

So going after either radar sites or command and control bankers or maybe an artillery dump or maybe fuel storage points for Gadhafi's forces, my guess is they run it up the ladder to the chain of command.

And start taking out regional command control centers. Probably start with a regional air defense command and control center.

GORANI: General Wesley Clark, thanks very much.

WHITFIELD: All right, meantime, let's go to the Pentagon where our correspondent Chris Lawrence is now.

So, Chris, what more can you tell us about these U.S. missile strikes?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fredricka, we have been able to confirm the U.S. has launched its first Tomahawk missile strike on the air defenses there in Libya, Colonel Gadhafi's air defenses.

This was going to be the first sort of opening salvo in this operation to take out his air defense. It is believed that he has somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 50 launchers in that area, mostly concentrated in the western part of the country.

Although some of his capabilities to launch surface-to-air missiles, some of those were in areas that are now being controlled by the rebels. So it is believed that Colonel Gadhafi does not control all of his surface-to-air missile capability that he did before this uprising took place.

But again, to make the no-fly zone effective, you have to first take out the air defenses. While most of his air defenses were delivered back in the 1970s and early '80s, there are some that still could cause considerable damage. So that was going to be the first target of some of the coalition forces.

WHITFIELD: Do we know the general facility where those targets are?

LAWRENCE: They are not specifying exactly where they are, but we know that most of this capability was towards the western part of the country, more towards the capital of Tripoli, which makes sense because that was his seat of power so to speak so most of them would be more towards that half of the country.

GORANI: So this would corroborate some of the reports that we have seen. We are trying to get in touch with our Nic Robertson in Tripoli of reports of loud explosions heard in and around the capital.

So what is next from your sources at the Pentagon for the U.S. military in terms of the U.S. involvement in this operation in Libya?

LAWRENCE: Well, that still remains to play out. I think some of that will depend on what Colonel Gadhafi does next. We have gotten some signals that if perhaps he pulls back or he changes his posture that the coalition posture could also change as well.

But although one official said that has to be looked at very carefully because simply stopping advancing say into Benghazi might not be enough. He could be repositioning his forces to attack again at a later date.

They would want to see something even stronger from Colonel Gadhafi indicating that he was going to pull back his forces or prepare to stand down. One official that I spoke with says so far, they have not seen any indication of that.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Chris Lawrence. Do we expect that there might be any kind of comment officially coming out of the Pentagon today?

LAWRENCE: We do, but more than likely that will come after President Obama speaks to the nation.

WHITFIELD: OK, and we understand that may happen momentarily. The president, of course, is in a three-nation tour. He's in Brazil right now. We understand that somewhere within the next 15 minutes or so, we just may hear from the president of the United States on all of these. Chris Lawrence, thanks so much from the Pentagon.

GORANI: All right, we will be right back. We are taking a break, I believe. Right back with a lot more from Libya and around the world as we continue to follow this breaking news story. Do stay with us.


WHITFIELD: All right, right now, I want to take you straight to London. British Prime Minister David Cameron speaking now on all that is taking place in Libya.


DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: -- together to enforce the will of the United Nations and to protect the Libyan people.

We have all seen the appalling brutality that Colonel Gadhafi has meted out against his own people. And far from introducing the cease- fire he spoke about, he has actually stepped up the attacks and brutality that we can all see.

So what we are doing is necessary, it is legal and it is right.

It is necessary because, with others, we should be trying to prevent him using his military against his own people.

It is legal because we have the backing of the United Nations Security Council and also of the Arab League and many others.

It is right because I believe we should not stand aside while this dictator murders his own people.

Tonight, of course, our thoughts should be with those in our armed services who are putting their lives at risk in order to save the lives of others. They are the bravest of the brave.

But I believe we should all be confident that what we are doing is -


WHITFIELD: We also have another correspondent that we can touch base with right now right out of London. Atika Shubert there now.

Atika, we just heard from the British prime minister, what more can you tell us?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): He came out with a very brief statement saying that military action in Libya was necessary, legal and right. Saying that it had the backing of the United Nations and that it was necessary to prevent Gadhafi from attacking his own people.

But he did not give any further details on the exact British military role, what sort of British military resources will be brought to bear on this. So we're still waiting for more of those details.

GORANI: All right. Atika Shubert, thanks very much. She is in London.

David Cameron made the point that Moammar Gadhafi is not only not respecting his promise to implement a cease fire, but in fact escalating the violence.

Our viewers who have been with us the last few hours will remember that witness who we spoke with from Misrata saying that that city is from heavy shelling.

WHITFIELD: That's right and we hope to hear from President Barack Obama, who's actually in South America. He's traveling in Brazil. We understand somewhere within the next few minutes or so he may have an opportunity to actually go to the camera and we'll bring those comments to you as soon as we get them.

We'll be right back with more after this.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back, escalating activity taking place in Libya.

GORANI: Yes, Chris Lawrence is at the Pentagon with new information on these American missiles.

What can you tell us, Chris?

LAWRENCE: Yes, Hala, Fred.

We're getting some more information about how this operation is going to work. A few minutes ago, we've reported that some of the first U.S. Tomahawk missiles had been launched on Libya.

Now we can give you an idea of exactly how this is going to play out. Phase one of this mission will be to degrade Colonel Gadhafi's air defenses. By that I mean most of the first strikes will be concentrated in two places, mostly around Tripoli and Misrata. That's where the first initial air strikes will be conducted and those will be conducted specifically to take out his air defenses.

Also some of Colonel Gadhafi's ground forces will be targeted as well, because a senior military official says those ground forces carry with them some of the capability to shoot down planes. Some of his air defense is carried by the ground troops, so they too would become a target.

The official says once that is done, once they open up an environment in which a no-fly zone could be performed, you'll see the no-fly zone enforced in a limited part of the country. It's only going to be in that northern part of Libya from east to west, primarily to the west of Tripoli and, obviously, to the east of Benghazi.

Most of the flights are going to take place over Libyan airspace in the area around Tripoli and also in the Mediterranean Sea in the area around Benghazi. The official says the coalition basically has two goals.

One is to prevent further attacks by regime forces on the Libyan citizens, and also they want to degrade Colonel Gadhafi's ability to shoot down coalition jets. Right now, the mission is being commanded by an American admiral on board the USS Mount Whitney.

That's sort of a command and control ship by which a lot of information can be exchanged and command can be conducted, but they expect to transfer that command to a coalition commander in the next few days or so. Hala, Fred --

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much. Appreciate that, Chris Lawrence.

Meantime, let's get back to General Wesley Clark who's joining us again. He was listening to all that Chris had to say. He's joining us again from Little Rock, Arkansas.

GORANI: All right. So you heard there what was said. Phase one, degrade air defenses. That phase seems to be under way. What would phase two be then as far as the U.S. military is concerned?

CLARK: Strike forces on the ground plus work it up toward the command and control centers, controlling those forces. And go as high as the Libyan high command, wherever that is.

GORANI: What would that entail, going as high as the Libyan high command?

CLARK: That would entail probably a great deal of danger for Mr. Gadhafi if he's anywhere near it. So we would expect to take out the command and control for those forces. Now if there's a regional command and control center, maybe you'd strike that first if you could isolate, and we probably know this, who is controlling the forces that are moving toward Benghazi.

Maybe as a warning we run that up first. It's clear that given the way that the U.N. Security Council resolution was written and Secretary Clinton's comments that this is an effort - and President Sarkozy's - this is an effort to keep the door open and give Gadhafi a chance to back out, rather than calling for his unconditional surrender.

But he's only got limited time to respond to this. I think the patience of the coalition is going to be limited, as President Obama said. This wasn't intended to be a long scale drawn-out operation. We've got people on the ground who are at risk.

And so I think patience in the coalition will be limited for Gadhafi and his stalling tactics. So the first thing is degrade the air defense. Blunt his ability to conduct offensive operations. And run the pressure up the command and control chain until he breaks, but maintain escalation dominance on this.

WHITFIELD: When you mentioned people on the ground at risk, you are also talking about Intel, right, that Intel support in order to know where these targets would be, I guess, most suitable for U.S. missiles as well as for the French air assault?

CLARK: That's right. Well, I'm sure that we're talking to people on the ground. The question is whether the people on the ground really know what's happening. When I hear news commentators, of course we're -- the news commentators can only get so far forward in the fighting.

But it's also true that the Libyan opposition is, so far as we can determine, not really an organized force capable of doing deep reconnaissance. Maybe they got people behind the lines that can call in on cell phones or something, I hope they do.

But a lot of the intelligence has to be done through overhead collection, electronic intercepts and other things. And maybe there have been some teams that are inserted and maybe there are some people inside Gadhafi's own camp who are disloyal.

All those things are possible and I'm sure that the coalition leadership will exploit every single opportunity as it moves down this line. But the key concept is to keep in mind is escalation dominance.

WHITFIELD: All right, General Wesley Clark, thanks so much. Appreciate that. I know we'll check back with you throughout the afternoon.

It certainly seems like a very quick escalation, the kind of escalation that General Clark is underscoring right now and one that perhaps was promised by this coalition, the coalition of countries that were involved in this mission.

GORANI: And the more details emerge, the more you realize that is a complex, multi-layered operation that involves France, the United States now there with the launching of these Tomahawk missiles around western Tripoli, France focusing its attention on Benghazi. We're hearing reports of several military vehicles destroyed by French fighter jets. This is just the beginning, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: It certainly is.