NATO to head the command and control of Libyan operation

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Washington, Mar 25: Overcoming deep differences among its 28-member nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has agreed to take the lead role in enforcing the 'no-fly' zone over Libya as per the mandate of the UN Security Council resolution.

"NATO has now decided to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya. We are taking action as part of the broad international effort to protect the civilians against the attacks by the Gaddafi regime. We will cooperate closely with our partners in the region and we welcome their contributions," said NATO Secretary General, Andres Fogh Rasmussen.

He said all NATO allies are committed to fulfill their commitments under the UN Resolution, and that's why "we have decided to assume responsibility for the no-fly zone".

However, no decision has been made whether NATO should take on broader responsibility, Rasmussen said in an interview to CNN soon after an announcement in this regard was made at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

"What we have decided today is to take responsibility for the no-fly zone with the aim to protect civilians by closing the air space for all flights, except aid flights, all with the aim to protect civilians. Of course, we can act in self defence. We have not decided yet whether we will take on the broader responsibility," he said.

This means that right at this moment you will have two operations. We have taken on responsibility for the no-fly zone, while the coalition still continues its activities. We are considering whether we should take on that broader responsibility. However, that decision has not been made yet, he added.

The necessary change in the current command and control over the Libyan military operation will be done over the next couple of days, Rasmussen said, adding that it will use the already established NATO chain of command for this.

"We will use the already established NATO framework, which means that it is a NATO supreme commander who will be the overall responsible," he said.

The current NATO commander is an American.

"We will include contributing partners from the region. It's of utmost importance to stress that this is not primarily a NATO operation. It is a broad international effort in which we will include partners from the region that have pledged to contribute to this protection of civilians in Libya," the top NATO official said.

Rasmussen, however, refuted reports that there have been differences among the 28-member alliance on the Libyan operation.

"There is no split. On the contrary, there is a unity within NATO. We have decided, all 28 allies, that we will take on the responsibility for the no-fly zone. We are, right now, considering whether we should take on the broader responsibility within the UN Security Council resolution," he said.

He said it will take place a part of that broad international effort to protect civilians.

Earlier in a statement in Brussels, Rasmussen said: "We are taking action as part of the broad international effort to protect civilians against the attacks by the Gaddafi regime. We will cooperate with our partners in the region and welcome their contributions."

"All NATO Allies are committed to fulfill their obligations under the UN resolution. That is why we have decided to assume responsibility for the no-fly zone," he said.

PTI

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