WASHINGTON (Reuters) - NATO has not asked the United States to intensify its military operations in Libya, the Pentagon said on Tuesday after France criticized the NATO campaign for failing to halt attacks on civilians.
Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said the 28-member alliance had not requested a resumption of U.S. strike sorties in Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi's government continues to bombard the rebel-held western city of Misrata.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said NATO must stop Gaddafi from shelling civilians and take out heavy weapons bombarding Misrata, where hundreds of civilians have been reported killed.
The Obama administration, which was initially reluctant to become involved in a conflict in another Muslim nation, handed control of the air campaign to NATO after initial strikes crippled Gaddafi's air defenses.
While the United States is keeping planes capable of striking Libyan ground targets, such as the A-10 Warthog and the AC-130 gunship, poised across the Mediterranean in southern Europe in case NATO requests additional U.S. help, Lapan said the ongoing attacks on Libyan civilians did not necessarily portend any change in U.S. participation in Libya operations.
"NATO has those capabilities to conduct strikes ... They continue to strike at Gaddafi forces but again ultimately what needs to happen is that Gaddafi needs to stop attacking his own people," Lapan told reporters at the Pentagon.
(Reporting by Missy Ryan; Editing by Eric Beech)