NATO clinches deal to take over Libya military ops

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NATO clinches deal to take over Libya military ops

BRUSSELS - NATO clinched agreement on Thursday to take over command of all allied military operations in Libya from the United States after days of sometimes heated wrangling with Muslim member Turkey.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Fri 25 Mar 2011, 1:25 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 11:19 PM

“Compromise has been reached in principle in a very short time,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara. “The operation will be handed over to NATO completely.”

The deal came after a four-way telephone conference between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the foreign ministers of Turkey, France and Britain.

Earlier, Turkish leaders had cast new suspicions on the motives behind Western intervention in Libya, suggesting action was driven by oil and mineral wealth rather than a desire to protect civilians from Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

U.S. President Barack Obama, trying to extricate Washington from two wars in Muslim nations, Iraq and Afghanistan, had insisted Washington wanted to hand over responsibility for the Libya campaign to NATO within days rather than weeks.

Davutoglu said NATO would take over as soon as possible, within a day or two. NATO officials have said it would take 72 hours after the directive is approved to activate the command.

There was no immediate confirmation from NATO in Brussels where alliance ambassadors were meeting. A NATO official said the meeting had adjourned temporarily and would reconvene at 1930 GMT.

A NATO official said: “They are consulting capitals.”

The Turkish parliament earlier approved a decision to join a NATO naval operation to enforce a U.N.-sanctioned arms embargo off Libya by sending four frigates, a submarine and a support vessel for the naval operation.

Ankara insisted NATO should have sole control of Libya operations to prevent offensive operations that could harm civilians or a divided command where NATO was in charge of enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone while coalition planes continued to bomb Libyan forces.

France, which launched the air campaign with Britain and the United States on Saturday, says NATO should play a technical role by providing its command structure for the operation, while an ad hoc steering group of coalition members, including the Arab League, exercises political control.

It has argued that having NATO in charge would erode Arab support because US unpopularity in the Arab world.

On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said it may take a coalition of Western powers days or weeks to destroy Muammar Gaddafi’s military, but not months.

Turkey takes aim at france

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan took a swipe at France on Thursday, saying that the same people who were reluctant to let Turkey into the European Union now spoke in terms of “crusades” in Libya, a reference to a loose comment by Sarkozy’s interior minister.

He voiced suspicion that some seeking to act outside NATO had their eyes on Libya’s oil while President Abdullah Gul said the coalition lacked an agreed policy, planning and exit strategy, and Libya could be “looted” like Iraq.

“I wish that those who only see oil, gold mines and underground treasures when they look in that direction, would see the region through glasses of conscience from now on,” Erdogan told a conference in Istanbul.

British Prime Minister David Cameron sought to assuage concerns about Western motives by saying the coalition should not stray beyond the UN resolution by targeting Gaddafi.

“It is very important we don’t go beyond that in any way,” he said when asked if the Libyan leader was a legitimate target.

Daniel Keohane of the European Union Institute for Security Studies said it was vital to clarify the aim of military action, noting that while the EU and the United States say Gaddafi must go, the UN resolution did not authorise regime change.

“It’s about imposing the no-fly zone and to protect civilians by all necessary means,” he said. “The problem is that some people in Turkey and some of the European countries like Germany worry it may become about regime change.”

Germany argued against Western intervention, but has made clear if would not stand in the way of a NATO role.

Britain will host a first “contact group” meeting next Tuesday of an ad hoc group of coalition members, including the Arab League and the African Union, which said on Thursday it had invited representatives of Gaddafi and the Libya rebels to Addis Ababa for talks on Friday.

Kehone said prolonged wrangling over command arrangements or objectives could erode coalition morale.

“If it goes on for another week or two, it could do. It doesn’t look good if there confusion over aims and the chain of command,” he said.

“The military will get on with the job as best as they can, but it’s not good for morale, certainly at the political level, and for holding the coalition together and keeping Arab support.”


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