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U.N. votes to lift Libya no-fly zone on Oct. 31

This image taken from video by the British Ministry of Defense shows a British Apache helicopter taking off from the deck of the HMS Ocean in the Mediterranean Sea, off Libya on Saturday, June 4, 2011. British Apache and French attack helicopters struck targets for the first time in NATO's campaign in Libya.
AP Photo/British Ministry of Defense

UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to lift the no-fly zone over Libya on Oct. 31 and end its authorization of military action to protect civilians.

The council authorized the actions on March 17 in response to an Arab League request to try to halt Moammar Gadhafi's military, which was advancing against rebels and their civilian supporters. The NATO bombing campaign that followed was critical in helping the rebels oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from power in August.

The council adopted the resolution a day after Libya's deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi asked members to wait until the transitional government made an official request, which he hoped would come by Oct. 31.

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But the U.N.'s most powerful body decided that there was no need for U.N.-authorized military action following the death of Gadhafi on Oct. 20 and the transitional government's announcement of the country's liberation on Oct. 23.

Last week, NATO announced preliminary plans to phase out its mission on Oct. 31. But the alliance unexpectedly postponed a decision on Wednesday, saying NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen needed to continue consultations with the United Nations and Libya's National Transitional Council.

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The resolution ends the U.N. authorization for military action just before midnight on Oct. 31, which means that Libya will regain control of its airspace and all military operations effective Nov. 1.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had called for an end to military operations on Oct. 31 and welcomed the council's action — as did the ambassadors of United States, Britain, France, Germany, South Africa and other council nations.

On Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declined to say whether the Obama administration intends to seek military ties with Libya's new government, amid uncertainty about Islamist influences there after the demise of Qaddafi.