Saturday, March 26, 2011

US to NATO to lead Mission Libya

NATO prepared to assume leadership from the US of the military campaign against Gaddafi's forces while the allied effort won a rare military commitment in the Arab world when the United Arab Emirates said it would send warplanes to join patrols with Western allies.

NATO agreed that it would not only take over command and control of the no-fly zone, but also of the effort to protect civilians through aggressive coalition airstrikes on Colonel Gaddafi's troops on the ground, the officials said.But Nato said its no-fly zone operation could last three months, and France cautioned the conflict would not end soon.Military action against pro-Gaddafi forces entered its seventh day on Friday with explosions around Tripoli overnight and French and British reports of strikes on ground forces to break a battlefield stalemate and help rebels take the strategic town of Ajdebiyah.

In Washington, a US military spokeswoman said the coalition fired 16 Tomahawk cruise missiles and flew 153 air sorties in the past 24 hours targeting Gaddafi's artillery, mechanized forces and command and control infrastructure.

There will be a meeting of coalition foreign ministers on Tuesday in London, as the French and British wanted, the officials said.That meeting and consequent meetings will deal with the larger political campaign, including sanctions and other measures designed to put more pressure on Colonel Gaddafi to quit.

US president Barack Obama who in his message today said," The role of American forces in this mission is limited. After providing unique capabilities at the beginning, we are now handing over control of the no-fly zone to our NATO allies and partners, including Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.The United States has also joined with the international community to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance. We're offering support to the Libyan opposition and have frozen tens of billions of dollars of Qaddafi's assets."

It will also have representation from the United Nations, the Arab League and the African Union.But that meeting of what the British are calling "the contact group" will not be running the military side of the operation, the officials said.
Early on Friday, the UAE said it would commit 12 warplanes to join patrols enforcing the no-fly zone authorized a week ago by the UN Security Council, the official Emirates News Agency reported.It quoted the foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, as saying the deployment would begin "in the coming days."A sticking point in the negotiations was what military officials call the "no-drive zone," the bombing of Colonel Gaddafi's ground forces, tanks and artillery outside Libyan cities.France wanted to have clearer leadership role of the campaign while Turkey was concerned about its turning into a larger operation involving ground troops.Many countries, like Italy and Norway , however, said they would participate only if Nato ran the entire military operation.

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