Friday, April 15, 2011

NATO Ministers: No Gaddafi In Libya's Future

Gaddafi Nato Libya
GEIR MOULSON and MATTHEW LEE   04/14/11 12:04 PM ET   AP

BERLIN — NATO nations struggled Thursday to overcome deep differences over the military campaign in Libya, failing to find new ground-attack aircraft for the fight despite French and British calls for more intense airstrikes against Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

Alliance members agreed that Gadhafi must leave power but insisted the military mission remain focused on its declared goals of enforcing an arms embargo, protecting civilians and forcing the withdrawal of Gadhafi forces from cities they have entered.

The limitations of NATO's aims have been tested by the Libyan rebels' inability to make progress against Gadhafi's stronger and better organized forces, who have camouflaged themselves and hidden in populated areas to avoid Western airstrikes now in their third week. As a result, Britain and France have been calling for more strikes by their NATO allies, particularly the U.S., with its sophisticated surveillance and weapons systems. The U.S. says it sees no need to change what it calls a supporting role in the campaign – even though it has still been flying a third of the missions – and many other NATO nations have rules preventing them from striking Gadhafi's forces except in self-defense.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO needed more aircraft to attack Gadhafi's forces in populated areas but the first day of the meeting led to no commitments of new planes.

"To avoid civilian casualties we need very sophisticated equipment, so we need a few more precision fighter ground-attack aircraft for air-to-ground missions," he said. "I don't have specific pledges or promises from this meeting, but I heard indications that gave me hope."

Meanwhile, Gadhafi's troops unleashed heavy shelling for three hours on the port city of Misrata, which is partly held by rebels who are defending positions against government forces. At least nine people were killed, witnesses said,
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton did not say whether the U.S. would send more ground attack craft, but she appealed to the other NATO foreign ministers for unity over the Libyan campaign.

"As our mission continues, maintaining our resolve and unity only grows more important," Clinton said. "Gadhafi is testing our determination."

NATO's 28 members are "sharing the same goal, which is to see the end of the Gadhafi regime in Libya," Clinton said. "We must also intensify our political, diplomatic and economic mission to pressure and isolate Gadhafi and bring about his departure.

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