Divided NATO allies vow unity in defeating Kadhafi
NATO allies sought Thursday to show a united front in the Libya campaign, insisting they all wanted to see the back of Moamer Kadhafi even as they remained divided over dropping more bombs.
NATO foreign ministers played down any rift after France and Britain pressed allies to contribute more combat jets to the mission and intensify the raids against regime tanks and artillery shelling civilians.
"We are also sharing the same goal which is to see the end of the Kadhafi regime in Libya. And we are contributing in many ways in order to see that goal realised," said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
She later told NATO allies: "For our part, the US is committed to our shared mission. We will strongly support the coalition until our work is completed."
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, whose country shocked allies by refusing to back the UN resolution authorising the military operation, said NATO supports the aspirations of the Libyan people.
"We are united by the common goal, that we want a free and democratic Libya. The dictator Kadhafi, who started a civil war against his own people, must go," Westerwelle said at the start of the two-day meeting.
But differences remained over the air raids against forces threatening the population, which are being conducted by just six of the 28 allies. Rebels have urged NATO to step up the air campaign as the mission has failed to shift the balance of power so far.
Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen, whose country is among those conducting strikes, said more nations should contribute to the bombing missions.
"Denmark is making a huge contribution at the moment and I think it is relevant to discuss burden sharing to put pressure on those countries that haven't started to contribute yet," she told reporters.
But Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiminez said her country would not step up its contribution and would only take part in an arms embargo and a no-fly zone aimed at preventing aircraft from flying.
Norway, whose planes have dropped bombs on Kadhafi's heavy weapons, rejected the assertion that NATO was not doing enough.
"I think there has been a pretty active military campaign which has significantly reduced the military potential of the regime," said Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store.
He refused to be drawn into the debate over assets, saying he expected the alliance to reach a consensus despite the divisions. The focus should shift to finding a political solution to the crisis, he said.
"The air campaign is not solving the political issues," he added.
"We now need very focused attention on the political process ... and that is going to require a lot of political creativity and that cannot be done from the air."
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday's meeting in Qatar of the international contact group on Libya, which promised the rebels cash and the means to defend themselves, "laid out a good foundation."
"We will now discuss how we can continue the military operation leading to a successful result," he said.
Military action was first launched by France, the United States and Britain on March 19, but NATO took over the operation two weeks ago after overcoming French reservations about letting the Western military organisation lead it.
Germany and France played down their own differences over Libya, agreeing to disagree over the military intervention.
"On Libya we have to be honest ... We have the same objective, and this objective is to allow the Libyan people to enjoy democratic freedoms," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told reporters.
"The divergences lie in the means of achieving this objective. We think that a military intervention was necessary ... We disagreed on this but at no point was trust or dialogue broken."
He added: "But we agree that there can only be a political solution."
Westerwelle said: "On the question of Libya, there is basically one core difference, and that is about the path to a common aim."
© 2011 AFP