No 'political leadership' role for NATO in Libya: France

23rd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

NATO will not take "political leadership" of the international coalition in Libya but rather a planning and operational role to enforce a UN-backed no-fly zone, the French foreign minister said Wednesday.

"NATO will intervene as a tool for planning and operational action" in applying the no-fly zone provided for in UN Security Council Resolution 1973, Alain Juppe said at a press conference.

"It will not exercise political leadership" of the coalition, he said.

This role would fall to a committee of foreign affairs ministers from coalition countries taking part in military operations along with the Arab League, he said.

Juppe had earlier proposed the creation of such a "contact group", noting that the idea had been backed by Britain.

French government spokesman Francois Baroin told journalists that NATO would play a "technical role" in the Libya operation.

"We have to distinguish between political action, which is the coordination within the framework of strictly applying UN Security Council resolution 1973, and what the British prime minister has called NATO's 'useful machinery'," he said.

Earlier this week British Prime Minister David Cameron called for a transition to "a NATO command-and-control using NATO machinery."

The United States said late Tuesday that Washington, Paris and London had all agreed that NATO should play a "key role" in the future command structure, but did not provide many details.

French officials said at the same time that, during a phone conversation presidents Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy "reached an understanding on the modalities for using NATO's command structures to support the coalition."

Coalition forces -- led by the United States, France and Britain and including other European states along with Qatar -- have launched air strikes in Libya since Saturday, acting under a UN resolution authorising "all necessary means" to protect civilians in Libya.

© 2011 AFP

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