Nato ready to ‘help plan for post-Gaddafi libya’

2011-06-08 14:23

Brussels – Nato allies vowed today to keep up a relentless bombing campaign in Libya until Muammar Gaddafi steps down, provide the necessary means to finish the job and help plan for a post-Gaddafi Libya.

After three months of air strikes, defence ministers meeting in Brussels said time was working against Gaddafi and urged the defiant colonel to finally step down.

“All ministers agreed we will keep up the pressure for as long as it takes to bring this to an early conclusion,” Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference.

After Nato extended the operation for another 90 days through late September, the ministers issued a joint statement pledging their determination to continue the mission “for as long as necessary”.

They also said they were “committed to providing the necessary means and maximum operational flexibility within our mandate to sustain these efforts and welcome additional contributions to our common efforts”.

With only half of 28 Nato allies taking part in the mission, Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and British Defence Secretary Liam Fox called on members to step up their participation.

“We want to see increased urgency in some quarters in terms of Libya,” British Defence Secretary Liam Fox said ahead of the working lunch.

“The United Kingdom has been very forward-leaning, very clear that we want to see the Libyan people safe from the excesses of the Gaddafi regime.

We will want to push that point today,” he said.

Rasmussen said he had encouraged other allies “to broaden” their support of the mission to ensure the “sustainability” of the operation.

Only nine nations are conducting air strikes, with France and Britain carrying out the bulk of the attacks, including with helicopter gunships.

Spanish Defence Minister Carme Chacon, whose country is participating in the operation but not in air raids, said no other nations have come forward with new contributions.

Sweden, a non-Nato nation taking part in the operation, decided to cut the number of fighter jets enforcing a no-fly zone from eight to five, although it lifted restrictions on what type of surveillance mission they can carry out.

Norway, among only eight Nato members conducting air strikes, has said that it would reduce its role if the mission goes past June.

As the ministers met, a wave of air strikes battered Tripoli again early today, piling pressure on Gaddafi, who in an audio broadcast said he was “near” the bombing but vowed never to surrender.

The Libyan regime said 31 people were killed yesterday but Nato said it had no way to verify the claim.

“Time is working against Gaddafi, who has clearly lost all legitimacy and therefore needs to step down,” the ministers said.

“There is no future for a regime that has systematically threatened and attacked its own population,” they said.

Nato said it stood ready to play a role, if requested and necessary, once Gaddafi steps down but that such an effort should be initiated by the United Nations and the international contact group on Libya.

“The time has come to plan for the day after the conflict,” Rasmussen said.

The alliance chief said he did not foresee “a leading role” for Nato and ruled out alliance ground forces in a post-Gaddafi Libya.

US Admiral Samuel Locklear, a senior Nato commander, suggested last week that a small ground force might be necessary after Gaddafi leaves power.

The troops, he added, could be provided by the UN, the European Union or Nato. 

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