Clinton: More NATO nations must join Libya mission

AP News
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Posted: May 23, 2011 4:30 PM
Clinton: More NATO nations must join Libya mission

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday urged more NATO nations to take an operational role in the air campaign in Libya, and defended her own country's contribution to the mission.

Speaking ahead of President Barack Obama's scheduled two-day visit to Britain, Clinton acknowledged that additional support would help put military pressure on Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

"We have a lot of confidence in what our joint efforts are producing. We would like to see some other of our NATO friends and allies join in with us, in order to make sure that the pressure is maintained consistently," Clinton told reporters, following talks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Clinton also defended the contribution of the U.S. _ which handed control of the mission to NATO in late March _ following questions over Obama's commitment.

"Even today, the United States continues to fly 25 percent of all sorties, we continue to provide the majority of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets," Clinton said.

NATO said that 13 of its 28 member nations are offering equipment to the 17-nation strong alliance carrying out the air campaign in Libya.

Some British lawmakers have claimed that the U.K. and France have shouldered an unfair burden in the Libya campaign, and called on the U.S. to deploy additional jets in an attempt to increase the pace of airstrikes.

"It's not our business this week to criticize the role of the United States, which has clearly been crucial _ the military tempo has increased in recent weeks and in recent days," Hague said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Obama planned talks Tuesday and Wednesday, including on Libya, Syria and the future of the conflict in Afghanistan.

Cameron told British lawmakers last week that about 400 of the 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan will be withdrawn over the coming year.

Clinton said Britain and the U.S. were in harmony over their approach to Syria after the European Union on Monday imposed an assets freeze and a visa ban on President Bashar Assad and nine other members of his regime. It followed similar action taken by the United States.

"The cruelty must end and the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people must be honored," Clinton told reporters.

She said London and Washington were "both absolutely consistent on our message to the Assad government: Stop the killings, the beatings, the arrests. Release all political prisoners and detainees. Begin to respond to the demands that are upon you for a process of credible and inclusive democratic change."

Hague said that until Assad halted his violent crackdown on protesters Britain would work with the U.S. to ratchet up pressure on his regime.

Clinton also insisted that the U.S. was continuing to pursue terrorist targets across the globe following the killing of Osama bin Laden.

"We are determined to continue to press al-Qaida and its affiliates on all fronts, even after killing its leader Osama bin Laden," she said.

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Don Melvin in Brussels contributed to this report

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David Stringer can be reached at http://twitter.com/david_stringer