U.S. sees possible French, British lead on Libya

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 3:59 PM
U.S. sees possible French, British lead on Libya

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) - The United States sees several possibilities for future leadership of the campaign in Libya, but Arab allies are sensitive to operating under a NATO flag, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday.

"I think that there a couple of possibilities. One is British and French leadership. Another is the use of the NATO machinery," Gates said as he to flew to Russia.

"I think there is a sensitivity on the part of the Arab League to being seen to be operating under a NATO umbrella. And so the question is if there is a way we can work out NATO's command and control machinery without it being a NATO mission and without a NATO flag, and so on."

Gates also said a break-up of Libya would be a formula for instability, calling a partition (of government-held territory in the west and opposition forces in Libya's east) a formula for "enduring instability" in the region.

Gates said it "remains to be seen" if the Western coalition enforcing a non-fly zone over Libya would take additional measures to help the rebels, adding that Libyans need to resolve their own political process for themselves.

President Barack Obama's advisers unanimously supported his decision on the use of military force in Libya, Gates said, playing down any possible divisions within the administration.

"Any president who is contemplating the use of military force should demand a spirited debate, an intense debate, among his advisers on all of the ramifications," Gates said.

"Whatever positions people took in that debate and in that discussion, there was unanimous support for the approach the president decided on," he told reporters on his plane

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Todd Eastham)