US says NATO has agreed to command all Libya operations

25th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

NATO reached a "political agreement" Thursday to command not only the no-fly zone over Libya, but all other operations aimed at protecting civilians, a senior US official said.

The remarks by the official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, contradicted those by NATO's secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen who said the deal applied only to a no-fly zone.

"The key issue here is the political agreement," the official said.

"By this weekend, we should be able to execute, not only the command and control for the no-fly zone, which we did this evening (in Brussels), but also the command and control of the protection of civilians," he added.

"What had divided this alliance, which was the question: 'should NATO take the control of this entire operation or not,' that division has been overcome," the official said.

"All 28 members have now agreed that this is something that NATO must take on and will take on," he said in a conference call.

French, British and US forces launched military strikes against Libya on Saturday in line with UN Security Council resolution 1973, which called for "all necessary measures" to protect Libyans from Moamer Kadhafi's forces.

However, Washington, which has troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, has sought a limited role and has pushed for transferring command and control of the operation from the coalition to NATO.

Rasmussen, the NATO chief, pointed out such a transfer was limited when he said: "We have now decided to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya."

Asked if and when NATO would assume control of the broader campaign, he said: "We are considering whether NATO should take on that broader responsibility. But that decision has not been made yet."

NATO has already assumed control of the naval aspect of the operation, which includes enforcing an arms embargo.

The senior administration official also said that even though Germany had refused to participate directly in the military operations in Libya, it was not actually blocking them.

"So Germany has joined the consensus at each and every stage while making clear it is not participating in the operation itself," the official said, adding it has also facilitated the operation.

For example, he said, "All the bases and infrastructure within Germany is open for the use of the NATO alliance in any operation, including many of our bases."

© 2011 AFP

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