The French Navy’s flagship set off from the southern naval port of Toulon at 1210 GMT, with 20 warplanes, most them Rafale and older Super Etendard combat jets, as well as helicopters and two E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft.
Tugs pulled it from the wharf as dozens of onlookers watched it depart.
“The aircraft carrier is 24 hours by sea from the Libyan coast but will take 36 to 48 hours to get there, to take the time to load on the fighter jets that will participate in the operations and to hold some landing exercises,” a military source said.
The aircraft carrier was to be escorted by three frigates — the anti-submarine Duplex, the anti-air Forbin and the multi-mission stealth Aconit — and the oil tanker La Meuse, military officials said.
The French naval group was to be protected by a nuclear attack submarine, they added.
French warplanes also continued sorties over Libya early Sunday as part the West’s biggest intervention in the Arab world since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
Saturday, French jets spearheaded the West’s assault with four air strikes in Libya, destroying several armoured vehicles of forces loyal to the embattled Libyan strongman.
Sarkozy is, of course, the leader of the French conservatives. And of the free world? France started combat operations in Libya on March 10th!