NATO Agrees To Enforce No-Fly Zone Over Libya
UPDATE>>> NATO countries agreed on Thursday to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya to protect civilians against Moammar Gaddafi's forces, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters.
He said the U.S.-led military alliance's mandate did not go beyond the no-fly zone but NATO could also act in self-defense.
He appeared to contradict an earlier statement by Turkey's foreign minister that NATO would take command of all coalition military operations in Libya.
"At this moment, there will still be a coalition operation and a NATO operation," Rasmussen said, adding that talks were continuing on possibly giving NATO a wider role.
Earlier, Turkey said NATO members had settled four days of wrangling over the command and aims of the campaign, which would be transferred from the United States to the Western military alliance within one or two days.
"Compromise has been reached in principle in a very short time," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters. "The operation will be handed over to NATO completely."
Turkey's parliament authorized the government to participate in the military operations in Libya, including enforcing the no-fly zone. Turkey's prime minister and Cabinet now have the green light to decide whether the country will participate in the no-fly zone operation.
NATO needs the approval of all 28 of its members to take over military command of the operation, and Turkey had been a stumbling block.
Ankara had pressed for NATO to have sole control of Libya operations, but had attached conditions, saying it did not want to see it conducting offensive operations that could harm civilians or to be in charge of enforcing a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone while coalition planes are bombing Libyan forces.
President Barack Obama's spokesman expressed confidence that the United States will be able to hand over control of the Libyan military operation within days.
"We are still operating under that timeline, that it will be days, not weeks," spokesman Jay Carney said. Discussions are ongoing within NATO and "we feel very confident that it will happen soon," he said.
The U.N. Secretary-General said representatives of Moammar Gadhafi's government and the Libyan opposition will attend an African Union meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Friday.
The meeting is part of an effort to reach a cease-fire and political solution in Libya.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council on Thursday there is no evidence that Libyan officials have instituted a cease-fire as they claim. He says his special envoy has warned Gadhafi government officials that the 15-member council is "prepared to take additional measures" if they do not respect U.N. resolutions calling for a cease-fire.
Fighting in Misrata
Earlier, Western air strikes destroyed government tanks outside rebel-held Misrata, but other tanks inside the city were not hit, a resident said, underlining the difficulty of the U.N.-backed military mission to protect civilians.
Libya's government said it was in full control of Misrata, Libya's third city with a population of at least 300,000 people. Only a hardcore of rebels were holding out in the city, which is around 200 km (130 miles) east of Tripoli.
"These people are al-Qaida affiliates, they are prepared to die, they want to die, because death for them is happiness, is paradise. They know they are going to die," Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said.
But an opposition spokesman said by telephone that rebels were still fighting there, and had killed 30 snipers who had been picking off civilians from rooftops in the town. Government warships had left the port.
"There were clashes today and our fighters managed to find a way to reach the snipers on rooftops and killed 30 of them," rebel spokesman Abdulbasset Abu Mzereiq said by telephone.
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