US aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean are providing radar and logisitical support for air strikes as the UN Security Council sanctions a no-fly zone over Libya in order to protect civilians.

The resolution imposes a ban on all flights within Libyan airspace except aid flights in a bid to halt suppressive air strikes launched by the Gaddafi regime.

Member states are authorised to ‘take all necessary measures’ to protect civilian populated areas and calls for an immediate ceasefire.

The move comes after forces loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi retook towns that had been seized by rebel forces and bore down on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, home to a million citizens.

The motion was proposed by France, the UK, Lebanon, the US, South Africa, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Portugal, Nigeria and Gabon all voted in favour of the action while China, Russia, Brazil, India and Germany abstained.

UK military sources have as yet declined to put in any timetable on possible engagement but have played down reports that action could be taken as soon as today.