NATO weighs new role in post-Kadhafi Libya

27th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

NATO was weighing a possible new role in Libya following Moamer Kadhafi's death, as France said the UN would vote on Thursday to end the alliance's mandate for an air war on October 31.

Tripoli's interim rulers have pleaded for an extension to the alliance's mandate, but French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said the request was unlikely to be granted.

"The fall of Sirte led the Libyan authorities to declare the liberation of Libyan territory as of October 23," Valero told a media conference in Paris.

"Given this evolution, the Security Council should today adopt a resolution putting to an end as of October 31 the authorisations of resolution 1973 allowing the use of force to protect civilians and to ensure the respect of the no-fly zone.

"This resolution reflects the consensus in the Security Council on the need to put an end to the military operations," he said.

A UN envoy meanwhile said international inspectors urgently need to visit hundreds of suspected weapons stockpiles in the north African country amid growing fears that huge numbers of shoulder-fired missiles have been looted.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the National Transitional Council (NTC), on Wednesday said Kadhafi loyalists in neighbouring countries still posed a threat to his fledgling administration and urged NATO to continue its Libya campaign.

His fears were heightened by reports from security sources that Kadhafi's former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, who fled Libya, had passed from Niger into Mali.

"Abdullah al-Senussi has arrived in the Malian desert, from Niger," where he was believed to be hiding under the protection of some Tuaregs, a Niger security source said on condition of anonymity.

The information was confirmed by a security source from northern Mali, who said Senoussi was travelling with a small group.

It was not known if Kadhafi's son and heir-apparent Seif al-Islam was travelling with the group. Seif was earlier reported to be hiding in Niger after forces backing Libya's new rulers killed his father in Sirte on October 20.

Both Senussi, 62 who is also Kadhafi's brother-in-law, and Seif are subjects of an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court on June 27 for crimes against humanity, which also targeted Kadhafi.

The Beeld newspaper in Johannesburg said on Thursday that South African mercenaries who allegedly took part in Kadhafi's failed escape bid are still taking care Seif, but did not say where.

The South Africans were training Kadhafi's presidential guard and had reportedly been involved in transporting Kadhafi's gold, diamonds and foreign currency to Niger, and helping his wife and three of children flee Tripoli, the Afrikaans-language paper said.

In Washington, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said discussions had started at NATO headquarters in Brussels and with Libya's NTC about the end of the UN mandate.

She said the NTC "may foresee a future role for NATO," and that discussions have been held about that as well.

"Some things have been discussed, like support for border security, support for demobilisation, decommissioning of weapons, these kinds of things," she said.

NATO "does have quite a bit of experience after the combat phase is over in helping countries around the world, and particularly partner countries, to train and equip their own military, restructure, particularly in the decommissioning of weapons," Nuland said.

UN Security Council approval in March for a no-fly zone and military action to protect civilians has caused divisions on the 15-nation body ever since. Russia, China, South Africa, Brazil and India have accused NATO of going beyond the mandate with the air strikes against Kadhafi.

Libya's deputy UN envoy Ibrahim Dabbashi had told the Security Council that the NTC may have to ask for an extension of the mandate, saying Libyan national armed forces were not yet ready to take on national security.

The government, he added, was also deciding whether it could monitor its borders following the demise of the Kadhafi regime.

UN special envoy to Libya, Ian Martin, told the Security Council that Kadhafi's regime had "accumulated the largest known stockpile of anti-aircraft missiles."

"Thousands were destroyed during NATO operations. But I have to report to you our increasing concerns over the looting and likely proliferation of MANPADS," or Man-Portable Air Defence Systems, Martin said.

© 2011 AFP

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