Allies beset by infighting over next steps for Libya
Published 24/03/2011 | 05:00
Infighting and confusion over the command of the military mission in Libya continued yesterday as NATO remained deeply split and Barack Obama announced the US would pull back "this week".
The US president "absolutely" ruled out a land invasion to topple Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and insisted that America would stand down from its leading military role within days.
Uncertainty over who would take over military command deepened as France and Britain remained divided over how central NATO's role would be in the international coalition.
Mr Obama insisted that it was time for all countries playing a part in operations to sort out how the Libya campaign would be fought. The air war has been dominated by US aircraft and missiles.
"The exit strategy will be executed this week in the sense that we will be pulling back from our much more active efforts to shape the environment," Mr Obama said.
"We'll still be in a support role. We'll still be providing jamming and intelligence and other assets that are unique to us.
"But this is an international effort that's designed to accomplish the goals that were set out in the (UN) Security Council resolution."
Washington and London had hoped that NATO would quickly take over "command and control" of operations to enforce a no-fly zone and the protection of civilians.
While NATO warships began patrolling off Libya's coast to enforce a UN arms embargo, members of the alliance remained divided on how to proceed.
France and Turkey, with German support, continued to oppose a leading role for NATO. They want to avoid a rerun of operations in Afghanistan that have undermined support in the Muslim and Arab world.
In an attempt to paper over the cracks and to cement an international coalition, Britain's foreign secretary William Hague, will host a summit in London next Tuesday.
The meeting, announced in Paris, followed another day of fruitless NATO wrangling. "These are difficult discussions on very difficult issues," a NATO spokesman admitted yesterday. ( © Daily Telegraph, London)