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U.S. Struck Near Two Libyan Cities; Radiation Found in Milk And Spinach; Pentagon Holds News Conference On Operation Odyssey Dawn, Tomahawk Missile Strikes Against Gadhafi Forces In Libya

Aired March 19, 2011 - 16:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So the first shots have indeed been fired and the battle against Libya is now escalating.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: French jets have taken out military targets in Benghazi. The goal, to protect the people of Libya. Now a senior U.S. military official tells CNN the U.S. has launched its first air strikes in the western part of the country. Those U.S. Tomahawk missiles have landed in the area around Tripoli and Misrata.

WHITFIELD: And this as Moammar Gadhafi sends letters to the U.N. and its allies warning them to stay out of his country.

GORANI: Meanwhile, the leaders behind the U.N. resolution gathered in Paris today to map out the road ahead. French warplanes are circling over Libya, enforcing that U.N. sanctioned no-fly zone, as we've been reporting.

WHITFIELD: And they have already flexed some military muscle firing on a Libyan military vehicle. That's the first salvo. Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is joining us right now from Tripoli.

So Nic, there were some reports that there were loud booming noises. Now perhaps we know in large part why. Perhaps as a result of those U.S. Tomahawk missile strikes?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (ON THE PHONE): Yes. It's not possible for us to confirm it at the moment in Tripoli. There certainly would be a number of targets here. The former U.S. air base in the east of the city here houses not only some of the private jets owned by the Gadhafi family but also fighter aircraft and other military aircraft. It's the main military airport that is on the eastern outskirts of Tripoli, but it's not clear at the moment what may have been the target of those Tomahawk missiles.

Right now we're at the compound of Moammar Gadhafi, his palace compound (INAUDIBLE). Many people here, a thousand or so, chanting slogans, expecting him to come out and speak. The pictures from here being carried live on state television. One of the demonstrations that people are putting in place, the government is organizing to show you that they'll protect buildings and institutions here in Libya. This is very much a government initiative to show the people solidarity behind Moammar Gadhafi. And certainly nobody we're talking to here is aware of those air strikes east of the city. But to be quite honest, the music where these people are gathered and the shouting, it's so loud, it's unlikely they would hear anything on the other side.

WHITFIELD: So that's euphoria, people are excited about what's taking place? Is this what - tantamount to a celebration?

ROBERTSON: Yes, it seems very odd. In fact the scenes that had greeted us on the streets this evening seemed it has been at complete variance with what is happening to the country. The country is facing air strikes to implement the U.N. security council resolution to protect civilians. What we've seen on the street are people waving their green flags, coming out in support of Moammar Gadhafi. We've perhaps seen several hundreds of cars and several thousands of people. Of course, this is a city of two million.

I mean, I know for certain there are many people here that are anti- Gadhafi and are probably staying at home. But what the regime is doing is rallying people, persuading them to come out on the streets. Many of them are telling us they're coming out of their own free will with their families to demonstrate and show their support. The images of these are being put on state television, a sign of unity, which is what the government wants to portray to the rest of the country, that the people are behind Moammar Gadhafi, but it's a tiny fraction of the population here. It has had some sort of a celebratory feel to it. As counterintuitive as that may be with what the country faces tonight. These people seemed to have been sort of having what can only be described as a large street party here. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And so is it also true according to state television that there are civilian casualties that the government is now blaming on those missile strikes?

ROBERTSON: The government here was always going to take the position if there were strikes that these were strikes against the unity of the country, strikes against the integrity of the country, strikes designed to reinitiate a colonial occupation of the country and the government was always going to use whatever happened, whether civilians were injured or not, to rally people behind Moammar Gadhafi.

Certainly if state TV is reporting that right now, the aim will be to unite people and to try and essentially try and defeat and pull people away from the opposition. Because if there's one thing people here tell us that should unite people, it's the fact that there would be an outside force attacking the country. We heard from one of (INAUDIBLE) Gadhafi, one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons on state television urging people to join what he called a jihad against the infidels invasion of the country. This is the rhetoric that is being used here. So it's not surprising to hear the government is portraying civilian casualties in these strikes.

GORANI: Where are you now, Nic? Are you out on the street?

ROBERTSON: We are in the (INAUDIBLE) which is the presidential - Moammar Gadhafi's palace compound. It's a network of rings upon rings upon rings of security that's very, very large palace compound area. There was an expectation Moammar Gadhafi would come and talk to people here, but I can see the crowds are drifting away and that idea certainly seems to have gone away. Perhaps the reason that people are leaving is because they're hearing Moammar Gadhafi won't be coming and perhaps the reason for may be because we're hearing about these Tomahawk strikes so close to the capital.

GORANI: Nic Robertson is live in Tripoli, thanks very much. It's interesting how Nic is reporting on this festive mood, which is kind of counterintuitive and how people around him at least are saying they're in support of Moammar Gadhafi. But what's more interesting is in these police states often, Fredricka, where it's so difficult to express dissent publicly without facing retribution, oftentimes when you report in these countries people will say things to you on camera and say something very different off camera.

WHITFIELD: Sure, (INAUDIBLE) intimidation.

GORANI: Absolutely. Yes. So it's interesting to see that as well.

WHITFIELD: We're going to have much more on all that is taking place in Libya and of course the crisis in Japan as well, right after this.


WHITFIELD: All right. Along with French fighter jets that are now flying over Libya, we also know that the U.S. Tomahawk missiles have also made its targets there.

GORANI: Well, it's the beginning of this operation. Jim Bitterman is in Paris with more on the French involvement and what the French defense ministry is now saying about all of this, Jim.

JIM BITTERMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hala, one of the things we're not getting from the defense ministry is any confirmation about the further strikes that took place. There are a lot of reporting going on that there were four more strikes on ground targets around the Benghazi area but none of those have been confirmed by the Defense Ministry nor denied by the Defense Ministry. So we're kind of in the dark on that. But it is certain that they did at least strike one military vehicle just about two hours after that meeting, the big meeting here to sort of get a coalition going was over, about two hours later they hit the first vehicle.

And clearly, they're in a position to take out anything either in the skies or on the ground around the Benghazi area. They made it pretty clear that their responsibility is only around the Benghazi area. Just around the city itself and the outskirts of the city and not elsewhere in the country. So the strikes that are taking place in Tripoli are certainly not involving French aircraft but it could be involving, maybe it's been confirmed now, that the American Tomahawk missiles. Hala.

GORANI: Jim Bittermann, thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right. American President Barack Obama is in Brazil. He had these comments on all that's taking place in Libya.

Apologize for that. All right. We're looking at the White House, however, we're hoping to hear the audio of President Obama while he is in Brazil. We'll try to re-establish that and we'll try to bring that to you as soon as possible.

GORANI: All right. But we have many other world leaders speak today. President Obama did speak once. This would be his second opportunity to comment on Libya. David Cameron, the U.K. prime minister, spoke. It was a brief statement at 10 Downing Street. Atika Shubert is there in London with more on what David Cameron has to say. Hi there, Atika.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. He just concluded an emergency meeting here. He came out and made a very brief, but strong statement explaining why British military involvement in Libya was in his words necessary, legal and right. Here's what he said.


DAVID CAMERON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: We have the backing of the United Nations Security Council and also of the Arab League and many others. And 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 in a just cause and in our nation's interest. Thank you.


SHUBERT: Now, no exact operational details on how Britain is contributing militarily, although undoubtedly more of those details will be coming out soon. What is very clear, however, is that it is Britain and France that are taking the lead on this operation, both diplomatically and militarily while the United States very much steps out of the spotlight and lets them do much of the talking. Hala.

GORANI: OK. Atika Shubert, in London, thanks very much. The U.K. and France in the lead. However, Fredricka, as we've been reporting, the United States now firing Tomahawk missiles on to Libya, landing near and around Tripoli and Misrata in the western part of the country.

WHITFIELD: And momentarily we hope to be able to bring you comments coming from President Barack Obama while in Brazil after this.


WHITFIELD: All right. Developments in Libya are certainly permeating around the globe, even though President Barack Obama and the United States is actually in South America, he is very much up to speed on all that's taking place.

GORANI: Well, it was meant to be and is a trade trip, a conversation between the U.S. and Brazil, but this Libya news is out. He arrived in Brazil this morning for a planned state visit and he was immediately briefed on the fast-changing situation in Libya.

WHITFIELD: CNN's Ed Henry is traveling with the president and he is joining us right now from Brazilia. Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, that's right. The president just spoke in another part of Brazilia and we'll give you that video in just a few moments. But I want to give you a quick read out of what he said. It was a very somber, sober tone. The president started by saying "Today I authorized the armed forces of the United States to begin a limited military operation in Libya."

He said that action has now begun, as we've been hearing from our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence and others. He stressed against as he did earlier that it's a broad coalition of U.S. allies. This is not the U.S. acting unilaterally. He noted this was not his first choice. He said he was deeply aware of the risks of any military option, the risks to American lives, the risk to innocent civilians of course as well. But he said, "We cannot stand idly by as Colonel Gadhafi continues to assault his own civilians."

He also noted the U.S. will be providing, as Chris has been reporting and others, unique capabilities at the front end of this mission but also working with others. He also stressed yet again as we've heard in recent days that the U.S. will not in any circumstances commit U.S. ground forces to this military operation in Libya. At the end the president also thanked U.S. troops for their bravery and said that "We are acting in the interests of the United States and the world with this military operation."

As you can imagine, a very solemn, somber tone from the president. He's here on a trade mission. But given what's happening on the other side of the world, he is being briefed on it but he's also trying to get out there and explain to the American people and people around the world exactly why he authorized this use of American force as part of this broader coalition. Fred, Hala.

GORANI: Ed, you know, of course, we're on CNN International as well as CNN USA right now. And around the world there seems to be some level of support for this operation, of course the no-fly zone. But what about inside the United States? Ordinary Americans, do they support this?

HENRY: Well, as you can imagine, there's been deep skepticism in recent years among the American people about any U.S. military operation given the fact that Iraq, Afghanistan have taken a lot longer than U.S. officials ever estimated at the front end. But so far it seems that the administration has at least some support for this among the American people because of the fact that the president has very clearly defined the mission from the beginning. Even before this was launched officially today, he, in recent days has been preparing the American people in particular, but you're right people around the world as well for the fact that both the U.S. involvement as well as the involvement of allies is not some open-ended, long, long commitment. That they expect this to be relatively brief.

But of course, once a military operation begins, you never know exactly how long it's going to last. And I can tell you there was sort of a briefing, private briefing with senior U.S. officials a short time ago where repeatedly reporters tried to pin them down on how long this mission will last and they repeatedly refused to say how long it will last. They know about the concern among the American people, concern of people around the world about how long missions like this last and they're not going to be pinned down on a timetable. Hala.

GORANI: Ed Henry in Brazilia, thanks very much. Fredricka, of course in the United States there is Afghanistan, there is still a presence in Iraq. The United States perhaps with a smaller appetite than a country like France for direct military involvement in another country.

WHITFIELD: Right. And this one, another Muslim country, and that too has its own ramifications and that's why the U.S. is in large part trying to be cautious but that it is militarily involved. Of course we'll send yet a different message around the world.

GORANI: All right. I believe now it's the time to go to break or get our viewers caught up on Japan. Let's talk about Japan a little bit because of course there a little more than a week after that earthquake and tsunami, food now is becoming a big concern. Tests have detected elevated radiation levels in milk and spinach from areas near the damaged nuclear plant.

WHITFIELD: Also today, six emergency workers there were exposed to levels of radiation equal to 10 chest x-rays in an hour. The number of dead from last week's quake and tsunami rose to over 7,000.

GORANI: Let's bring in Martin Savidge. He is in Tokyo. Now, Martin, the Japanese government is banning the sale of any food that is grown where exactly? How far from those nuclear plants?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this area that was discovered is actually two prefecture. One is Fukushima prefecture and the other one is (INAUDIBLE). These are about 90 miles away roughly from the area where the nuclear facility is located. Now, we're speaking very generalized terms here. So understand that.

It was found in two sources, and that one being the spinach and the other one being milk. You might wonder how do those two really come into play here. Well, spinach, of course, growing out in the field, (INAUDIBLE) and what happens is radiation, if it comes down from the sky lands on the leaves and that's how it picks it up. Milk, that has, of course, to do with cows foraging out in the field. They eat the vegetation, they ingest it and of course, that's how you get radiation in the milk.

We should point out that in both of these cases, extremely low levels. Trace levels of radiation. That's not to say there isn't a concern, it's just to put it in perspective. If you drank milk, this milk for about one year, they say that the total accumulation would be equal to say one CT scan. Still, they're trying to determine now what to do about that. Should they quarantine all of this food, stop all sales. This is what we're trying to figure out. And further testing on other food sources. But you know, this is your real big concern. When you have any sort of radiation like this that it would get into the food chain, it's the first proof that in fact it is getting into the food chain.

Some good news, though, coming from especially reactor number three. This is the most serious of all six reactors out there. They have been able to cool it down using new devices that have been brought in to literally drown this thing. Keep the water coming and not expose (INAUDIBLE)


GORANI: Martin, we need break away there from you. There's a briefing at the Pentagon under way right now. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the international coalition's military enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolution 1973. The admiral is kind enough to join us this afternoon and he will make a very brief statement and then offer you all the opportunity to ask a few questions, but obviously he has operational matters to attend to so this will not be lengthy engagement. With that, admiral.

VICE ADM. WILLIAM GORTNEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Good afternoon, thank you for coming, everyone. As you know, we're on the leading edge of a coalition military operation designed to enforce United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 in Libya. The goals of these initial operations are essentially twofold. First to prevent further attacks by regime forces on Libyan citizens and opposition groups, especially in and around Benghazi, and second to degrade the regime's capability to resist the no-fly zone we are implementing under that United Nations resolution.

To that end earlier this afternoon over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from both U.S. and British ships and submarines struck more than 20 integrated air defense systems and other air defense facilities ashore. On the slide to my left, back one slide, please. On the slide to my left you can see the rough locations of the military targets struck. You will notice that most of them are on or near the coast, a fact which made their destruction vital to the enforcement of a no-fly zone, since so much of the air activity we have seen and so much of the regime's military efforts have been in this part of the country.

These strikes were carefully coordinated with our coalition partners. The targets themselves were selected based on our collective assessment that these sites either pose a direct threat to the coalition pilots or through use by the regime pose a direct threat to the people of Libya. Because it is night over there, it will be some time before we have a complete picture of the success of these strikes.

I want to stress, however, that this is just the first phase of what will likely be a multi-phase military operation designed to enforce the United Nations resolution and deny the Libyan regime the ability to use force against its own people. This is an international military effort, urged by the Libyan people themselves and by other Arab nations. We are joined by several other allied partners and are committed to supporting their efforts. Indeed, we continue to receive commitments of support and participation and leadership from both Arab and European partners.

In these early days, the operation will be under the operational command of General Carter Hamm, commander of U.S. Africa command and the commander of Joint task force Odyssey Dawn, which is the name of this operation, is Admiral Sam Locklear who is embarked on board "USS Mount Whitney" in the Mediterranean. We anticipate the eventual transition of leadership to a coalition commander in the coming days.

That said, the U.S. military has and will continue to use our unique capabilities to create the conditions from which we and our partners can best enforce the full measure of the U.N. mandate. Our mission right now is to shape the battle space in such a way that our partners may take the lead in both execution. As the president has said we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of the civilians in Libya. And with that, I will take your questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Admiral, (INAUDIBLE) with AP, can you give us a little bit more clarity on the strikes and the targets, including perhaps just a bit more on what exactly U.S. ships, submarines, et cetera, did and was there anything beyond the cruise missiles that is being done by the United States?

GORTNEY: Both from U.S. ships and submarines and a U.K. submarine. Total, 110, maybe 112 Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles. Once again targeted specifically at taking down the critical nodes of the integrated air defense system which includes surface-to-air missile sites, early warning sites, key communication nodes. Located up on the slight to my left, you'll see many of them. Most of them are in the western part of the country. That's where those critical nodes are located and that's why we targeted them there. But it does build, give us the ability specifically with taking down the long-range surface-to-air, the SA-5s, taking them down and then the C-2 architecture that goes with that opens up as broad as space as possible for the no-fly zone.

QUESTION: On the missiles themselves, these are these new generation tactical Tomahawks?

GORTNEY: It was a mixture of the old Tomahawks and the newer tactical Tomahawks.

QUESTION: Do the new ones (INAUDIBLE) air space and take pictures actually before they drop in?

GORTNEY: Not pictures. They give us the ability to loiter and then we can shoot them a target and they will go to the target. But in this particular mission we used them as we have just as one of the older Tomahawks.

QUESTION: They're clearing airspace for (INAUDIBLE) jammers to go in?

GORTNEY: They allow us to penetrate a - what we would call a medium to high threat without putting air crew at risk, create the conditions for manned aircraft.

QUESTION: Has the no-fly zone enforcement begun? And what coalition members will enforce that? Will U.S. jets be in the air enforcing it?

GORTNEY: At this point we are creating the conditions to be able to set up the no-fly zone. And once we have established and confirmed that the conditions are right, then we will move forward into one of the next phases of the campaign.

QUESTION: So it has not yet begun enforcement?

GORTNEY: That's a tough one to say based on how you call - do we have airplanes patrolling over Libya to enforce a no-fly zone? No, ma'am, we do not. But I would say we are beginning that because we're setting the conditions to be able to reach that state.

QUESTION: Admiral, will Colonel Gadhafi's tanks and heavy artillery also be targeted going forward?

GORTNEY: I'm going to have to limit my discussion today to the actions that were taken thus far. And I'm not going to be able to discuss potential future operations.

QUESTION: Admiral, you said that protecting the population of Benghazi was one of the goals but I don't see that as one of the strike targets on your map. Why is that?

GORTNEY: That's correct. That's where I was talking about the critical nodes of that integrated air and defense system. At this particular point Gadhafi is predominantly lives in Tripoli and you'll see that's where the most robust (INAUDIBLE) are. But the no-fly zone that we wanted enforced encompasses both east and west so we went after that this wave after the most critical part.

QUESTION: Will the second wave go to Benghazi?

GORTNEY: I'm not going to talk about future operations.

QUESTION: Are U.S. forces required or have they been used to help with the targeting on the ground? Have U.S. forces been on the ground to help with the targeting?

GORTNEY: There's been no U.S. forces on the ground to do the targeting. We don't require people on the ground to develop the targets for the target.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what submarines and ships the missiles came from, the U.S.?

GORTNEY: I'm going to have to provide you at another time. I don't have that in front of me right now, ma'am.

QUESTION: Just to be clear, there are no U.S. aircraft involved at this point.

GORTNEY: No U.S. aircraft over land at this time, no, ma'am. QUESTION: And none involved in the air strikes right now.

GORTNEY: Not at this particular time, no, ma'am.

QUESTION: Admiral, are any U.S. Aircraft providing refueling support for any aircraft involved?

GORTNEY: I would anticipate that we will be providing that. You know, we bring unique capabilities in command and control and logistics, so part of that, we bring a very large tanker force to do that and we will be contributing that now and in the future.

QUESTION: When did this start in relation to when the French launched their fighter jets? Was this after they had launched, before they launched? Do you anticipate launches will continue? And when you talk about critical nodes, is Gadhafi's upper echelon command and control considered a critical node of his air defense?

GORTNEY: The first question?

QUESTION: When did the Tomahawks first get launched in comparison --

GORTNEY: It was after the French, after the French flew their particular missions, the Tomahawks were launched. About the time of flight of about an hour from launch to impact; first impact was 1500 Eastern Standard Time.

I'm not going to answer the second question because it deals to future operations. Your last question?

QUESTION: When you talked about you were targeting command and control -- critical nodes, is Gadhafi's upper echelon command and control considered one of those critical nodes that you attacked?

GORTNEY: We're focusing on the command and control of the integrated air and missile defense system.

QUESTION: Do the you anticipate that the U.S. participates in the no- fly zone with attack aircraft or fighters?

GORTNEY: I'm not at liberty to talk potential future operations.

QUESTION: Can you tell me which Arab nations are part of the allied partners?

QUESTION: Right now of the coalition, the countries that have asked us to mention their names, of course the U.S., U.K., French, Italy and Canada. The other countries have asked -- they want to be able to make the announcement. And it's the same for the Arab countries as well. We'll go ahead and let them make the announcement.

QUESTION: Greg, do you have anything?


QUESTION: There are also planes that can do electronic jamming of integrated missile sites. Was that technology used during these strikes?

GORTNEY: For this particular strike, we would call that support package, the electronic attack was not required in order to get the cruise missiles into their targets.

QUESTION: AWACS, is that what you mean?

GORTNEY: We have aircraft that jam electronics, the early warning JCI. We haven't had to use those. That's one of the benefits of using the Tomahawk cruise missiles.

QUESTION: What was the purpose of the French mission over Benghazi?

GORTNEY: I'm not here -- I'm not able to speak to the French mission objectives.

QUESTION: Total number of targets again?

GORTNEY: It will over 20 targets.

QUESTION: How will you assess the damage? Will you send a Global Hawk or satellite imagery?

GORTNEY: Bomb damage assessment is going to be take a little bit. After being in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan where we have Predators, Reapers, full-motion video, we don't have that in the contested airspace. That is why we had to drop the IADS (ph) in order to do that. We'll be able to use a Global Hawk once we have confirmed that the SA5s are down and then we'll use the traditional national technical means.

QUESTION: To be clear, this is a U.S.-led operation, but in the hours leading up to today there's communications or talk to try to talk that down.

GORTNEY: We are on the leading edge of coalition operations, where the United States under General Hamm (ph) in Africa Command is in charge. He's in command of this at this point. In the coming days, we intend to transition it to a coalition command.

QUESTION: Can you specify how many British ships were involved compared to the U.S. ships?

GORTNEY: We had one British submarine.

QUESTION: And the rest were all U.S.?

GORTNEY: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: And the number of that?

GORTNEY: I don't have that in front of me, any exact numbers.

QUESTION: Couple more minutes here. Tony?

QUESTION: How sophisticated was this air defense system compared to Iraq's, Iran's, even going back to Vietnam. You studied these systems and I think the public would like a sense of that.

GORTNEY: This is an integrated air and missile defense system much like the one that Iraq had that surrounded Baghdad, built on older Soviet technology, but still good capability.

QUESTION: Two things. The bomb damage assessment, do you have a rough idea, will that take hours or days?

GORTNEY: I would say between hours and days.


GORTNEY: It's going to take us anywhere from 6 to 12 hours to get this based on assessing whether or not the SA5 sites are down, that we can then move a Global Hawk in, and the other national technical means to collect and then assess.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that the no-fly zone enforcement won't begin until the bomb damage assessment is complete?

GORTNEY: I'm not able to talk about specifics of future operations.

QUESTION: More hands as we go on. Let's try to get control of this. Let's do Chris, Matthew, Nathan, and then we're done.

QUESTION: Admiral, would you consider this period that we're in right now to be a pause in that no more strikes are going on until the assessment?

GORTNEY: No, we're in the first phase of a multi-phase operation. I wouldn't specifically call it a pause.

QUESTION: So strikes are continuing even before the assessment?

GORTNEY: It's the first phase of a multi-phase operation.

QUESTION: You said it was a U.S.-led operation, but at which point do you call it coalition partners? Is it-


GORTNEY: Yes, within Africa command and on Mt. Whitney, where the JTF commander is, we have our coalition partners embedded into the staff that help deal with the planning, execution, and assessment of the coalition operations. Much like we do around the world.

QUESTION: I think the promise that Nathan would be the last one.

QUESTION: Admiral, could you give us the sense of the total number of ships that are attached to this JTF Odyssey Dawn. Or the number of U.S. vessels versus the coalition?

GORTNEY: I apologize, I should have that information and I don't have it in front of me. We're going to have to get that for you. We'll be able to provide that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

As operations develop and events warrant, we will come back to you and keep you updated as things go on.


HALA GORANI, CNN INT'L. ANCHOR: All right. There you heard it from Vice Admiral William Gortney; 110 to 112 Tomahawk missiles launched targeting areas around Tripoli and Misrata and the aim of all of this, Fredricka, is to take down air defense systems, which is one of the first steps, of course, in the enforcement of a no-fly zone.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: The admiral making it very clear this is just the first phase of a multi-phase operation, an operation being called Operation Odyssey Dawn. Much more to come on this as we get more information as well. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: U.S. President Barack Obama just spoke about the crisis in Libya.

GORANI: Let's listen to what he said just a few minutes ago.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am deeply aware of the risks of any military action, no matter what limits we place on it. I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice. And it's not a choice that I make lightly.

But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Benghazi and Misrata, where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government. So we must be clear. Actions have consequences. And the writ of the international community must be enforced.


WHITFIELD: Meantime U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling on Colonel Moammar Gadhafi to stop defying international sanctions.

GORANI: She warns of serious consequences if he does not. The U.S. has fired cruise missiles against Libya.

There she is, by the way, being greeted by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president a the Elysee Palace. This is what Hillary Clinton said in Paris that America was committed to do to get the job done.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Colonel Gadhafi's campaign of violence against his own people must stop. The strong votes in the United Nations Security Council underscored this unity. And now the Gadhafi forces face unambiguous terms. A cease-fire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop. Troops must stop advancing on Benghazi and pull back from Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zawiya. Water, electricity and gas supplies must be turned on to all areas.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty is traveling with Secretary Clinton.

GORANI: All right. Jill joins us now, live from Paris with more on Secretary Clinton there. We have heard from the Pentagon, we've heard from the president. The United States initially giving-sending out the message that it is not taking a leading role, but we're seeing so many statements come out of the Pentagon, and the State Department and now from the president that the United States is somehow on a leadership edge, as it was termed at the Pentagon.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I think that's a fair expression of that. But what they didn't want to do was make it look as if it was a United States operation. They really wanted the international community, which they got, and they certainly wanted Arab nations and Gulf nations, and they got them, to come to this last-minute summit here in Paris held by and organized by President Sarkozy.

So that is the image that they're portraying and it is actually the reality. The reality, however, of what the Arab countries will do is still not clear. But you know as you listen to Secretary Clinton listing those demands, they are exactly the demands that President Obama was talking about yesterday. And one of the hopes was that in gathering all of these leaders together, in almost an emergency session here, that they would have some, let's call it, chest thumping, but also some warning to Moammar Gadhafi that they were for real, that something was going to happen.

Obviously it didn't work, because in the estimation of the United States and the coalition here, nothing has changed; that the leadership of Libya continues to say that they are going to have a ceasefire, but on the ground the West is not seeing anything like that. So here we stand, and certainly Hillary Clinton made that trip over to Paris and back. In fact, she set off for the United States this evening to go back, very quick turn-around, but it was an important thing to send that message.

WHITFIELD: I wonder, Jill, was there any agreement among the many nations that met, all those delegates representing many nations, any agreement as to who would kind of take the second tier, the third tier? Was there any other movement of the other nations between France's actions and the U.S. actions?

DOUGHERTY: You know, not a lot of details of that part, the military part, were coming out of here. It was really more of the diplomatic. That said, each leader did have their military people with them and they certainly know what the plan is. Especially the role, as I was saying, of the Arab countries still is not clear. Don't forget, the military planning for this has been going on for quite a long time. And it was staged, as you can see. There are different stages. This is the part as they were meeting here in Paris, the planes from France were in the air over Libya. Then you had the United States as we learned firing those missiles to degrade their defenses. And so there are various stages that we are going to see and there could be more coming up.

WHITFIELD: Jill Dougherty, thanks very much for joining us from Paris. Appreciate that. We'll have more of our coverage of Libya. Of course, all the developments in Japan as well, coming up after this.

GORANI: Absolutely.


WHITFIELD: The Arab League was one of the first groups to push for a no-fly zone over Libya.

GORANI: Several League nations along with the secretary general were in those meetings in Paris. Let's dig deeper. Reza Sayah is in Cairo.

You know, Reza, we're still unclear what nations are taking part, what Arab League states are taking part. And exactly how they will taking part. Do we have more clarity?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you look at the first few hours of the implementation of this no-fly zone, based on the information we have, no Arab nation has participated in this first stage. That's been a relatively aggressive one. That could change with subsequent stages of the implementation of the no-fly zone, or it could be an indication of what's to come when you talk about the role of Arab nations.

It is not clear at this point if this is going to be a symbolic role that Arab nations are going to play, or if it is going to be an active operational role. What is clear is that countries like the U.S., France, the U.K., are making a concerted effort to convey to the world, to emphasize to the world, that this is not a Western-only action against an Arab nation. They want to tell the world that Arab nations are participating. When you look at the statement by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she did mention a number of Arab nations that took part in the summit in Paris. Among them, Qatar, Jordan, United Arab Emirates. But when she was asked exactly what role they're going to play, she said that's for them to announce.

It was the Arab League, of course, one week ago today right here in Cairo that got the ball rolling with this no-fly zone when they unanimously supported it. And they asked the U.N. Security Council to push forth. Earlier today after he was done voting in a nationwide referendum here in Cairo, we spoke to the Arab League leader, Amr Moussa, who said he supports the no-fly zone, but he doesn't want this to be an invasion. GORANI: Reza Sayah, we're going to have to leave it there. President Obama, this is the video of President Obama, the address on Libya. Let's listen.


OBAMA: The armed forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya, in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun. In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people; that coalition met in Paris today to send a unified message and it brings together many of our European and Arab partners.

This is not an outcome that the United States or any of our partners sought. Even yesterday the international community offered Moammar Gadhafi the opportunity to pursue an immediate ceasefire, one that stopped the violence against civilians, and the advances of Gadhafi's forces. But despite the hollow words of his government, he has ignored that opportunity. His attacks on his own people have continued. His forces have been on the move. The danger faced by the people of Libya has grown.

I am deeply aware of the risks of any military action, no matter what limits we place on it. I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice and it's not a choice that I make lightly. But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Benghazi and Misrata, where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government.

So we must be clear. Actions have consequences. And the writ of the international community must be enforced. That is the cause of this coalition. As a part of this effort, the United States will contribute our unique capabilities at the front end of the mission to protect Libyan civilians, and enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by our international partners.

As I said yesterday, we will not, I repeat, we will not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground. As commander in chief I have great confidence in the men and women of our military who will carry out this mission. They carry with them the respect of a grateful nation. I am also proud that we are acting as part of a coalition that includes close allies and partners who are prepared to meet the responsibility to protect the people of Libya and uphold the mandate of the international community.

I have acted after consulting with my national security team and Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress. In the coming hours and days, my administration will keep the American people fully informed. Make no mistake, today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people, and we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world. Thank you very much.


WHITFIELD: President Barack Obama there from Brasilia, Brazil, on his three-nation tour there, underscoring the U.S. will be playing a limited role in this operation already under way, escalating in Libya.

GORANI: And underlining the fact that the U.S. will not, and he said, repeat, not deploy ground troops in Libya. Ed Henry is traveling with the president and joins us from Brasilia.

What have you learned from your sources about how long America's leadership involvement will be in this Libyan operation, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, we're just getting some new information from a senior administration official about exactly how long the U.S. is planning to have a more heavy role in the military fighting, to get more specific in terms of what the president was alluding to.

This senior official telling me it will only be days, not weeks that the U.S. will have that role, probably just a few days on the front end. This official saying, quote, "In terms of the heavy kinetic portion of this military action, the president envisions it as lasting days, not weeks. After that, we'll take more of a supporting role that." That coming from a senior U.S. official making it clear as the president was preparing the American people and the world in the run- up to this military action, that in fact the U.S. was going to be there with its partners, allies like the United Kingdom and France, but would not be doing the heavy lifting for more than days. That is the specific timetable we are now getting from U.S. officials, Hala.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ed Henry thanks so much traveling with the president there.

GORANI: We'll take a short break and we'll have a lot more on this developing news story, breaking news story out of Libya. Also, of course, its ripple effects being felt all around the world with many of you our viewers as we continue to broadcast both on CNN USA and CNN International. Very much interested how this story unfolds in Libya and beyond. We'll be right back.