(Reuters) – NATO countries agreed on Thursday to enforce a no-fly zone inÂ Libya to protect civilians against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces, but fell short of taking full command of all military operations in the North African state.
NATO officials said a decision was expected on Sunday on whether to broaden the mandate to take full command, including over attacks on ground targets to protect civilian areas under threat from Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters after four days of grueling negotiations among ambassadors of the 28 NATO states the U.S.-led military alliance’s new mandate did not extend beyond enforcing an arms embargo and the no-fly zone, although NATO could act in self-defense.
Asked whether NATO would be able to strike at ground forces or take action against Gaddafi, Rasmussen said: “At this moment, there will still be a coalition operation and a NATO operation.”
However, he said talks would continue on giving NATO a broader role and a decision would be made in coming days. In the meantime, there would be close coordination to avoid conflicts.
NATO officials said that if all 28 states agreed to expand NATO’s role, it would give the alliance political control of military operations.
However they said it would “take into account” the guidance of a high-level political platform to include Arab states expected to be established at a conference in London on Tuesday.
This would represent a compromise between the positions of NATO members France andÂ Turkey, who have held up a deal.
France, which launched the air campaign with Britain and the United States on Saturday, has argued NATO should provide its command structure while an ad hoc steering group of coalition members, including the Arab League, exercises political control.
France wants to put the operation under a broader umbrella to include Arab states, arguing that having NATO in full charge would erode Arab support because of U.S. unpopularity in the Arab world.
To read more, visit:Â http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/25/us-libya-nato-idUSTRE72N61F20110325
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