Zapatero confirms Spain will join efforts to stop Gaddafi's advance

Spanish leader to seek congressional approval for intervention

Spain will contribute air and naval support to what appears to be an imminent international military action against the forces of Muammar Gaddafi, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said Friday.

At a news conference with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Madrid, the Spanish leader said US troops may make use of the Spanish bases of Rota (Cádiz) and Morón de la Frontera (Seville) "for a hypothetical air strike paving the way for a no-fly zone."

Zapatero, who canceled a weekend trip to León to stay on top of developments on the Libyan front, did not specify the exact nature of Spain's military deployment, but said it would be "an important contribution" and that air and sea craft would preferably be those already assigned to NATO missions.

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The Spanish Navy is taking part in NATO's naval deployment along the coast of Libya with a submarine that is carrying out intelligence work. A patrol ship called Vigía is also on alert and ready to join the mission if necessary.

The US Embassy said that Spain is a "key element" in the protection of the Libyan people.

After the UN Security Council voted late on Thursday to allow international air strikes to prevent Gaddafi from taking the last rebel stronghold in Benghazi, Zapatero asked Congress for authorization to decide what role the Spanish Armed Forces must play in this mission.

Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said the executive does not rule out making "an urgent decision" regarding a military intervention "if events unfold quickly," and have Congress approve it later.

Zapatero called the UN decision "a decisive step" and said its relevance is "truly historical."

The Libyan government said Friday it was ceasing military operations, but Zapatero said the "international community will not let itself be fooled by the Libyan regime." The premier said the UN had "fulfilled its duty and has set a very positive course to guarantee human rights."

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