The United Nations Security Council has approved military strikes on Libyan air defenses, a move following weeks of talks led by France, Britain and the United States to mobilize the international community to take action against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, which is engaged in armed conflict with rebels.

In the last several weeks, officials pushing for Thursday's action had mentioned the possibility of establishing a no fly-zone over the country. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier on Thursday that it would require bombing Libyan air defenses to protect the planes and pilots over the zone.

Member states are now authorized to take all necessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamhariya, including Benghazi, while excluding an occupation force. 

UN Resolution 1973 also calls for an immediate ceasefir by Gaddafi, and imposes action to tighten enforcement of the arms embargo to deny Gaddafi's regime access to funds.

We, along with our partners in the Arab world and in NATO, are now ready to shoulder our responsibilities in implementing the resolution, said Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the UK Ambassador to the UN.

France, Britain and the United States, all permanent members of the council were among the ten who voted in favor of establishing a no-fly zone over the country. Abstaining from the vote were the other two permanent members China and Russia, along with three others.

Had they voted against, Russia and China could have vetoed the joint resolution.

We are interested in a broad range of actions that will effectively protect civilians and increase the pressure on the Gadhafi regime to halt the killing and to allow the Libyan people to express themselves in their aspirations for the future freely and peacefully, said Susan Rice, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations on Wednesday.

Rice made the comments after eight hours of talks. Over the past week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has traveled to Paris to meet with European leaders on the next steps for addressing the unrest in Libya which has evolved into armed conflict between pro and anti-Gaddafi groups.

The Arab League, a voluntary association of nations, last week stated its support for a no fly zone. The countries include Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, and Bahrain.  

President Barack Obama and his administration have urged Gaddafi to leave the country and have previously said all options were being considered in how to deal with the crisis.