NATO says completing planning for Libya action

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 11:39 AM
NATO says completing planning for Libya action

By David Brunnstrom and Justyna Pawlak

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The head of NATO said on Friday the alliance was completing plans so that it could take "appropriate action" on Libya if it gets the go-ahead to act.

Diplomats said a meeting of ambassadors from the 28 NATO states did not reach a decision on whether the alliance would take part in military operations against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi authorized by a United Nations resolution.

But they said German and Turkish opposition appeared to have softened.

Alliance Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO was "completing its planning in order to be ready to take appropriate action in support of the U.N. resolution as part of the broad international effort."

"There is an urgent need, firm support from the region, and a clear U.N. mandate for necessary international action," he said in a statement, referring to NATO's previously stated conditions for any action.

NATO diplomats said NATO planning had been confined to possibly assisting in implementing a "no-fly" zone rather than air strikes, which would probably involve individual states such as Britain and France rather than NATO.

CONSENSUS

"Germany and Turkey have reservations, but nobody is blocking a consensus," one diplomat said.

Earlier on Friday, Turkey called for an immediate ceasefire in Libya and reiterated its opposition to foreign military intervention, but a NATO official said: "Rasmussen couldn't have made that statement if they had said 'no'."

"Consensus was reached to complete planning. The instructions to the chain of command were finalized and the chain of command now needs to come back with a final plan."

One diplomat said NATO ambassadors could meet over the weekend to finalize planning and reach a political decision on how to proceed.

NATO operations must be agreed by consensus of the 28 NATO states, any of which can veto action, but they can also abstain by not using this right.

NATO diplomats said that while Germany had said it would not participate in any military action, it also would not block it.

A NATO official noted that Germany had offered to send more German aircrews to Afghanistan to free up U.S. reconnaissance planes to monitor any action in Libya.

The United Nations authorized military attacks on Gaddafi's forces on Thursday to protect Libyan civilians and French diplomatic sources said action could follow within hours.

As Western warplanes prepared to attack his forces, Gaddafi's government said on Friday it was declaring a unilateral ceasefire in its offensive to crush a revolt.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)