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US commander says no-fly zone achieved; Gaddafi may stay in power (UPDATES) (VIDEO)

Adm. Mike Mullin said air and sea attacks by allied forces had achieved their goal; Muammar Gaddafi said Libyans were armed for a "long" war.

Libya air strikes 2011 03 20Enlarge
The USS Barry launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn, March 19, 2011. This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targeting about 20 sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Jonathan Sunderman)

After a day of bombardment by U.S. and European forces aimed at halting attacks on Libyan civilians by Muammar Gaddafi, America's top military commander said Sunday that the removal of the Libyan leader was not the goal of the current allied miliary operation.

Adm. Mike Mullin, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fox News Sunday that outcome of military action Saturday and Sunday by French and British fighter jets and a U.S. warship was "very uncertain," the Telegraph reported.

He also made it clear that Washington did not see the goal of "Operation Odyssey Dawn" as removing Gaddafi but rather as narrowly focused on protecting civilians and aiding humanitarian efforts.

"We have halted [Gaddafi] in the vicinity of Benghazi, which is where he was most recently on the march," Mullin said, adding that a no-fly zone had effectively been achieved, with Western forces establishing combat air patrols over the city that would be extended westward toward Tripoli over time.

"The focus of the United Nations Security Council resolution was really [the rebel stronghold of] Benghazi, specifically, and to protect civilians. And we have done that, or we have started to do that. This is not about going after Gaddafi himself or attacking him at this particular point in time."

“This is not about going after Gaddafi himself or attacking him at this particular point in time.”
~Adm. Mike Mullin

Gaddafi earlier Sunday warned that Libyans were armed for a long war in the Mediterranean "battlefield," and that air strikes by allied forces during the weekend represented a confrontation between the Libyan people and "the new Nazis."

"All the Libyan people are united. The Libyan men and women have been given weapons and bombs," the Libyan leader said in an audio message, CNN reported. "You will not advance. You will not step on this land. We promise you a long, drawn-out war with no limits."

The leaders of Britain, France and the United States will "fall like Hitler... Mussolini," he said.

U.S., British and French forces have fired on Libya from the air and sea in the past 24 hours, two days after the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1973 that, with Arab backing, authorized allies to "take all necessary measures" to prevent Gaddafi's forces from attacking civilians. 

Operation Odyssey Dawn is the West's biggest intervention in the Arab world since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq eight years ago.

U.S. warships and a British submarine fired at least 124 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya over the weekend, the U.S. military said. And three U.S. B-2 stealth bombers dropped 40 bombs on a major airfield in a bid to destroy much of the Libyan air force, CBS News reported, while fighter planes also searched for ground forces to attack.

Vice Admiral William E. Gortney, in a Pentagon briefing posted on YouTube said the missiles "struck more than 20 integrated air-defense systems and other defense facilities ashore." He said the strikes were "carefully co-ordinated with our coalition partners."

He added: "I want to stress that this is just the first phase of what will likely be a multi-phased military operation designed to enforce the United Nations resolution and deny the Libyan regime the ability to use force against its own people," the spokesman reportedly said.

The British Ministry of Defense confirmed that U.K. forces focused missile strikes near the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

And it emerged that at least one Arab nation helped enforce the U.N.-backed no-fly zone. "Qatar is participating in the military action because it is necessary for Arab states to take part," Sheikh Hamad, who is also foreign minister, told Sky News. The United Arab Emirates would also participate, Sky News reported, though this had not been confirmed publicly.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said Sunday that Gaddafi was feeling the "unified will" of the international community through the military campaign.

"He has been killing his own people. He declared that he will search house to house and kill all the people. That is unacceptable," the U.N. secretary general said in Paris.

The U.S. and European strikes, aimed at enforcing the U.N.-mandated no-fly zone, were a sharp escalation in the international effort to stop Gaddafi after weeks of pleading by the rebels who have seen cities they'd captured retaken by forces loyal to Gaddafi wielding superior air power and weaponry.

Mullin said Sunday that in the next few days,