Friday, April 15, 2011

Libya conflict: Nato summit fails to secure new planes

Nato's Anders Fogh Rasmussen: "Gaddafi
 will continue to attack his own population"
(BBC News) - A Nato meeting of foreign ministers on Libya has ended without a commitment from allies to send more strike planes.

Neither the US nor Italy have indicated they will respond to calls to join ground attacks.

Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the threat to Libyan civilians would not disappear while Col Muammar Gaddafi was still in power.

But he reiterated that Nato was strictly conforming to the UN mandate to protect civilians.

Nato pilots are enforcing the current UN resolution to establish a no-fly zone and to protect civilians in Libya, which has effectively been split between forces for and against Col Gaddafi since a revolt against his rule began in mid-February.

The current UN resolution makes no mention of regime change, but an open letter by the US, UK and French leaders on Friday said there could be no peace while Col Gaddafi was in power.

United front

At the Berlin conference, Mr Fogh Rasmussen said there were indications that allies would provide extra strike aircraft needed for the operation in Libya.

"We have got indications that nations will deliver what is needed... I'm hopeful that we will get the necessary assets in the very near future," he said.

But although US President Barack Obama said the US and Nato had averted "wholesale slaughter" with their campaign, he added that despite a military stalemate in Libya, there was no need for greater US participation in enforcing the UN-mandated no-fly zone.

Italy - which is thought to have been identified as a key potential contributor - also seemed to rule out ordering its aircraft to open fire.

Rome has made air bases available for Nato forces, but the eight aircraft it has supplied to the effort are only being used for reconnaissance and monitoring.

"The current line being followed by Italy is the right one and we are not thinking about changing our contribution to the military operations in Libya," Reuters reported Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa as telling reporters in Rome.

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