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NATO to continue Libya mission
Military alliance pledges to carry out air strikes wherever necessary to protect civilians.
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2011 14:42
Paul Brennan reports on the European reaction to events in Libya [Al Jazeera]

NATO has pleged to continue its mission over Libya despite growing optimism at reports that Muammar Gaddafi's regime was nearing an end.

"Our military mission has not changed. It remains to protect the civilian population, enforce the no-fly zone and the arms embargo,''Colonel Roland Lavoie, a spokesman of the military alliance, said on Tuesday.

"We will conduct strikes wherever necessary to protect the population of Libya,'' he told journalists in Brussels via video-link from NATO's headquarters in Naples, Italy.

Addressing the same press conference, Oana Lungescu, the chief NATO spokesman, said the end was near for Gaddafi's rule.

Referring to the appearance of Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, in Tripoli early on Tuesday - a move which contradicted rebel claims that he had been arrested - Lungescu said: "A brief appearance at the dead of night, doesn't indicate to me someone who is in control of a country or capital, or of anything much at all really."

"It shows that the remnants of the regime are on the run, and it's up to the Libyan people to decide the fate of the three who have been indicted by the ICC once they have been caught."

She went on to say that NATO might play a role in Libya in the post-Gaddafi period.

Backed by a UN mandate, NATO has been carrying out air strikes on Gaddafi's forces, significantly degrading their fighting capabilities.

Security concerns

Earlier in the day Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, held a joint press conference with Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the leader of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC), in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

"Security support provided by NATO forces will continue until security is fully established in Libya," he said.

"Libya's political and territorial unity must be fully secured."

Davutoglu also said that frozen Libyan assets should be released before the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan for the benefit of the people.

"Libyans need financial resources rapidly," he said on his second visit to Benghazi in two months.

'Democratic and free' Libya

Turkey had been opposed to both sanctions against Libya, as well as NATO's intervention after the revolt against Gaddafi's 42 year-rule erupted in February.

However, in May, Ankara called on Gaddafi to step down and recognised the NTC as Libya's legitimate government.

Davutoglu said he had spoken with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and 10 foreign ministers from the contact group on Libya, on Monday, to discuss political, economic and military support for Libya during a transition period.

He said a democratic and free Libya should be built and that the unity of the country must be protected, adding that Turkey would continue its efforts to secure international recognition for the NTC.

Also on Tuesday, several more countries including Lebanon, Norway, Nigeria, Bahrain, and Oman moved to recognise the council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

During six months of civil war, more than 30 countries have recognised the NTC as the governing authority in Libya.

Source:
Agencies
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