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Gaddafi’s fresh boasts amid wrangling over role of Nato

Prime Minister David Cameron has discussed the need for Nato to play a “key role” in the military action in Libya with US President Barack Obama amid continued wrangling over whether the alliance should take charge of the no-fly zone.

Shortly after they spoke, a defiant Colonel Gaddafi declared on Libyan state television: “In the short term, we'll beat them, in the long term, we'll beat them.”

Gaddafi was pictured standing in front of his damaged Bab Al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli.

“I do not fear storms that sweep the horizon, nor do I fear the planes that throw black destruction. I am resistant, my house is here in my tent,” he said. “I am the rightful owner, and the creator of tomorrow. I, I am here!”

Nato is launching an operation to enforce the air embargo and has completed plans “if needed” to take charge of the operation to enforce the no-fly zone declared by the United Nations Security Council last week, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

However Nato ambassadors meeting in Brussels have so far failed to agree whether the alliance should take over when the United States relinquishes command in the next few days.

In a phone call with Mr Obama, No. 10 said he and Mr Cameron agreed “that these arrangements now needed to be finalised”.

Downing Street said the leaders “were satisfied that substantial progress had been made so far in implementing UNSCR 1973, and that the international community's action had helped save countless civilian lives in Benghazi”.

“They agreed that a lot of work remained to be done, and that avoiding civilian casualties remained paramount.

“The Prime Minister and the President also agreed that good progress had been made in Nato on command and control of military operations, that Nato should play a key role in the command structure going forward, and that these arrangements now needed to be finalised.”

The call — which the President made from Air Force One as he toured Latin American countries — was the first time he and Mr Cameron have spoken in person since the UN resolution was approved late last Thursday.

Mr Obama also spoke with French President Nicolas Sarkozy about the efforts to agree who should take over the command and control of the operation when the US steps back.

Mr Cameron has argued for a Nato operation, telling the Commons that the alliance had a “tried and tested machinery” for running such a complex multi-national mission.

In a sign of deep divisions within Nato, France said political control of the campaign would be transferred shortly to a “committee” of coalition foreign ministers plus the Arab League. The suggestion, floated by France and accepted by Britain, is intended to defuse a dispute over the medium-term political leadership of the anti-Gaddafi coalition.

Turkey, the only alliance member which is predominantly Muslim, has also expressed concern that the air attacks and missile strikes carried out by the coalition of Britain, France and the US went beyond the UN mandate.

Downing Street insisted that the talks in Brussels were making “good progress”.

The Prime Minister's spokesman suggested a wider group of nations must be involved than just the Nato states while French foreign minister Alain Juppe called for the creation of a “political steering group”.

Belfast Telegraph

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