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US resists pressure from Europe's hawks to boost role in Libya fight

France and Britain, displeased with pace of operations to check Qaddafi in Libya, want the US and other NATO members to step up their roles. NATO foreign ministers meet Thursday in Berlin to assess the mission.

By Staff writer / April 13, 2011

Women shout slogans against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi during a demonstration in Benghazi, Libya, on April 13. A group of Western powers and Middle Eastern states called for the first time on Wednesday for Qaddafi to step aside, but NATO countries squabbled publicly over stepping up air strikes to help topple him.

Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters



Call them the Euro-hawks – the European military powers pressuring the United States and other NATO members to play a more aggressive role in the Libya fight.

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As NATO foreign ministers including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton prepare to meet in Berlin Thursday, France and Britain are expressing displeasure at the pace and intensity of NATO-led operations in Libya.

Paris and London are criticizing the Alliance for not doing enough to stop attacks on civilians by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. They are including Washington in their criticism, suggesting that the US should consider returning its air power to help enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, a United Nations-sanctioned action.

IN PICTURES: Libya conflict

The Obama administration’s response, coming through the Pentagon and State Department, is to express overall satisfaction with NATO’s Libya performance and to play down the need for additional air forces – specifically American forces – to reinforce the mission.

But with reports flowing out of Libya of mounting hardships for civilians, and with a military stalemate appearing to settle in, the rift in NATO over how far to take a murky mandate is likely to dominate the ministers’ Berlin meeting.

The perception of dire straits for Libya’s civilians was reinforced Wednesday when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, addressing an international meeting on Libya in Doha, Qatar, said conditions in Libya are worsening and international aid is falling short. The Doha meeting is meant to find ways of bolstering the Libyan rebels while also fostering a political solution to the conflict.


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