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U.N. Security Council backs military action against Gadhafi

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Security Council voted Thursday to authorize military action, including airstrikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery and a no-fly zone, a risky foreign intervention aimed at averting a bloody rout of rebels by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

After days of often acrimonious debate, played out against a desperate clock, as Gadhafi’s troops advanced to within 100 miles of the rebel capital of Benghazi, Libya, the Security Council authorized member nations to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians, diplomatic code words calling for military action.

Diplomats said the resolution — which passed with 10 votes, including the United States, and abstentions from Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India — was written to allow for a wide range of actions, including strikes on air-defense systems and missile attacks from ships. Military activity could get under way within a matter of hours, they said.

After the vote, President Barack Obama met with the National Security Council to discuss the possible options.

—Dan Bilefsky and Mark Landler, The New York Times

U.S. universities worry about students studying abroad

U.S. colleges have long trumpeted the benefits of studying abroad, as they have expanded programs on all seven continents and opened new campuses overseas. But as the world has erupted politically and physically in recent weeks, administrators and students have been fast discovering the downside.

College officials have had to stage evacuations on short notice while fielding calls from frantic parents. They have reassessed exchange programs in areas vulnerable to revolution and drug violence, from the Middle East to Mexico. Much is at stake for colleges with footprints in other countries: not just students’ safety, but also the schools’ properties, liabilities and reputations. Many administrators agree that monitoring quickly shifting circumstances around the globe is crucial to making swift, smart decisions and avoiding knee-jerk reactions.

Attention has now turned to Japan. After the earthquake and tsunami, Princeton University quickly reached out to nine students and staff members in various programs, mostly in Kyoto, about 300 miles south of the crippled nuclear reactors. On Wednesday, Princeton officials said that some had decided to leave the country, and the university was encouraging students living closer to Tokyo to relocate.

—Lisa W. Foderaro, The New York Times

CIA links to brutal Arab leaders may harm ties to new ones

WASHINGTON — There once was no American institution more hostile to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s pariah government than the Central Intelligence Agency, which had lost its deputy Beirut station chief when Libyan intelligence operatives blew up Pan Am Flight 103 above Scotland in 1988.

But with the Sep. 11 attacks came a new group of enemies. In recent years, the CIA has been closely tethered to Gadhafi’s intelligence service as it hunts for information about operatives of al-Qaida in North Africa.

Now, the uprising against the Libyan leader, along with the revolts that drove out the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt and threaten other rulers, have cast a harsh light on the cozy relationships between America’s intelligence agencies and autocratic, often brutal Arab governments. The CIA faces questions about whether such ties blinded it to undercurrents of dissent and may now damage America’s standing with emerging democratic governments.

—Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, The New York Times