Friday, March 25, 2011

NATO to take charge of Libya no-fly zone

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen addresses a news conference at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels on Thursday

Source: Press TV

The NATO secretary general says the 28-member coalition has agreed to take control of enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya while the US remains in charge of military operations.

The decision comes as the director of the US military's Joint Staff, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, had said earlier on Thursday that Washington was working very hard to hand over leadership of the coalition policing a no-fly zone over Libya to some other entity.

"At this moment there will still be a coalition operation and a NATO operation," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Brussels as he announced the agreement following four days of marathon talks to determine who should take command of US-led operation in Libya.

The NATO, however, stopped short of taking full command of all military operations, which is set to enter its seventh consecutive day.

"We are considering whether NATO should take on the broader responsibility in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution, but that decision has not been reached yet." Rasmussen stated.

NATO officials said the coalition's operations as part of efforts to enforce the no-fly zone were expected to begin in 48-72 hours. In the meantime, Pentagon officials said on Thursday that the US warplanes will continue flying over Libya.

Earlier on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated that NATO will take full command of the ongoing military operation against Libya after Ankara's demands were met in negotiations with Britain, France and the US.

"The coalition formed after a meeting in Paris is going to give up its mission as soon as possible and hand over the entire operation to NATO with its single command structure," Davutoglu said.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that Libyan regime's air force and air defenses have largely become ineffective and that forces loyal to the embattled ruler Muammar Gaddafi have been pushed back as the result of the Western alliance's aerial strikes.

Speaking at the State Department, Clinton went on to say that the US aircraft flying missions have seen a significant drop as compared to the increasing number of flying missions by other participating countries.

"Today we are taking the next step. We have agreed, along with our NATO allies, to transition command and control for the no-fly zone to NATO," she said.

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