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“One of the things that in addressing a no-fly zone is to suppress or destroy any of the air-defense systems that could put friendly forces at risk,” he said. “So that’s the first element, I believe, of entering into a no-fly zone is likely combat operations on Libya. So in talking about a no-fly zone, there are some precursor steps that have to be taken.”

Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, said he is opposed to the U.S. military getting involved in Libya.

“We all know that military commitments, however small or easily begun, and in this region particularly, very difficult to end — history shows that,” the former Reagan administration Navy secretary said.

“This is a region full of surprises, and I for one am of the opinion it’s not a good idea to give weapons and military support to people who you don’t know. And when it comes to the opposition in Libya, we don’t know them.”

• Bill Gertz can be reached at