Libya coalition steering group open to all

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 23, 2011 5:47 PM
Libya coalition steering group open to all

PARIS (Reuters) - A French presidential source said on Wednesday all nations were welcome to join a steering group on Libya that would decide political and military strategy in the campaign against Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

The source said the ad hoc group could be set up in a matter of days and that NATO would continue to coordinate the day-to-day military operations to enforce a U.N. resolution aimed at protecting civilians from Gaddafi's military onslaught.

"The idea is to also invite countries who weren't at the summit on Saturday who are interested in being involved," the French source said, noting there was keen interest among non-NATO countries to have a say in how the coalition acts.

"We need to have a place where all those who want to commit to help Libyans build a future can meet and discuss a political framework," he said. "It's about accompanying the military process with a political one."

France sees a possible model in the NATO-led International Peace Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, in which non-NATO participants get a seat in the political steering group.

The source said the most effective way to manage a military operation that is growing all the time, with Denmark deploying its first planes on Wednesday, was to use the existing NATO command structure to coordinate it.

He said Arab nations were not opposed to that, as long as there was a parallel steering group for a political and strategic dialogue that would include non-NATO countries.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said representatives of coalition countries plus the African Union, the Arab League and other European countries, would hold a "contact group" meeting in London on Tuesday.

"We've launched the idea of a contact group and apparently it's a big success," the French source said. "It's the logical next step after Saturday, which was pulled together in 48 hours and was not aiming for perfection."

He said the crisis in Libya would also be discussed at a European Union summit dinner in Brussels on Thursday.

France, which is in regular contact with National Libyan Transition Council representatives, wants other opposition movements in the tribally divided nation to step forward so and be included in discussions on the country's future.

"It's not for us to dictate a solution ... we encourage Libyans to join the opposition that is expressing itself and get involved in a process of democratic transition," the source said.

(Reporting by Catherine Bremer and Emmanuel Jarry; Editing by Jon Boyle)