US gets its wish: NATO to assume control of Libya no-fly zone
NATO's agreement to take over no-fly operations in Libya fulfills Obama's promise that US involvement would be limited. Alliance members authorize a 'civilian protection mission.'
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A last-minute objection by Turkey on what it feared would be a broad interpretation of a mandate to protect Libyan civilians put off at least once an announcement by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen that agreement had been reached.
But by Thursday night, Mr. Rasmussen announced at NATO headquarters in Brussels that all of the alliance’s 28 member states had agreed to NATO taking over responsibilities for the United Nations-authorized no-fly zone.
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed the transfer of command and control to NATO and said members of the alliance had agreed to authorize NATO authorities to undertake a “broader civilian protection mission.” The precise terms of that mission, however, will be defined in the coming days.
NATO is “well suited,” Mrs. Clinton said, to assume responsibility for the broader mission. In a statement from the State Department, she also praised the Arab League for its contributions and announced that the United Arab Emirates plans to join the international efforts on behalf of Libyan civilians.
Turkish officials had said earlier in the day that agreement had been reached on NATO taking over enforcement of the no-fly zone, which is designed to halt air assaults on Libya civilians by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
Turkey sought assurances
But Turkey, which is NATO’s only Muslim member – and considered by the US an essential Muslim participant in the Libyan operations – apparently balked and said it wanted additional reassurances that the authorization to protect Libyan civilians would not be broadly interpreted.
Turkey earlier clashed with France over a plan backed by Paris that would separate “political control” of the operation from military command. Turkish officials said Thursday morning they were satisfied the Libyan mission would have a “unified” command.
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Pentagon officials said, meanwhile, that transfer of command from a US-led coalition of countries would take place over the weekend.