NATO declares October 31 end to Libya mission: Diplomat

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Brussels, Oct 28: NATO formally decided to end its seven-month mission in Libya on October 31, a diplomat said today (Oct 28), despite calls from the country's new rulers for air patrols to continue until the end of the year.

Alliance warplanes would wind up the mission on Monday after flying more than 26,000 sorties and bombing almost 6,000 targets in an operation that helped a ragtag rebel force oust veteran ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

NATO ambassadors meeting in Brussels agreed "by unanimity to end OUP (Operation Unified Protector) on October 31," the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity. The alliance had made a preliminary decision last week to end operations on October 31 after judging that civilians were essentially safe from attacks following Gaddafi's death and the fall of Sirte.

The formal decision today came one day after the UN Security Council unanimously voted to end the mandate that authorised military action in Libya from 11:59 pm Libyan time (2159 GMT) on October 31.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UN decision showed that the country had entered a "new era" but its interim leader, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, warned on Wednesday that Gaddafi loyalists still posed a threat.

The resolution, Hague said yesterday, "is another significant milestone towards a peaceful, democratic future for Libya." The operation had divided the United Nations, with Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa accusing NATO of breaching the mandate. 


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