Brussels (Xinhua): NATO has decided to enforce the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya and would take over the command from the United States in “a couple of days,” the alliance’s chief said Thursday evening.
“NATO Allies have now decided to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after a gathering of NATO ambassadors.
“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,” Rasmussen said in a statement.
“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,” the statement said.
The NATO chief told CNN Thursday evening that the alliance would take command of enforcing the no-fly zone “in a couple of days” from the United States, which has been coordinating the multi-national military operation, but is eager to let others lead.
Rasmussen said NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, would take overall command of the mission.
“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,” Rasmussen said.
Washington, London and Paris agreed Tuesday that the alliance should play a key operational role in the coalition’s operation. However, NATO countries, Germany and Turkey, have strong reservations.
NATO warships and aircraft Wednesday began a mission to enforce the UN’s arms embargo on Libya.
Sixteen naval vessels from Italy, Turkey, Spain, the United States, Britain, Greece and Canada are participating in the operation, which is being commanded from NATO’s base in Naples, NATO military officials said.
NATO naval vessels would “cut off the flow of arms and mercenaries” and remain in international waters, they said.