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Mrs. Clinton said a decision on a no-fly zone, which would require the deployment of hundreds of aircraft and the repositioning of at least one Navy carrier, was a long way off.

An administration official said the U.S. would participate only if NATO approves the operation and other countries’ air forces participate.

“Most of the killing that go on in these types of situations is not from aircraft,” Mr. Mack said. “I don’t think there have been that many Libyans who have been killed from the air so far.”