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Nato chief calls for end of mission

Nato's top commander says he will recommend the end of the alliance's Libya mission.

Admiral Jim Stavridis made the announcement today before a meeting of the alliance's North Atlantic Council. Adm Stavridis called it "a good day for Nato, a great day for the people of Libya". The recommendation comes a day after Muammar Gaddafi was killed by former rebels.

Officials earlier said they expected the aerial operation to end very soon, but the North Atlantic Council may also decide to keep air patrols flying for several more days until the security situation on the ground stabilises. The final decision will depend on the Military Committee, the group's highest military organ.

Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen hailed the success of the mission, saying that it demonstrated that the alliance continues to play an "indispensable" role in confronting current and future security challenges.

Nato planes have flown about 26,000 sorties, including over 9,600 strike missions. They destroyed Libya's air defences and over 1,000 tanks, vehicles and guns, as well as Gaddafi's command and control networks.

The daily air strikes finally broke the stalemate that developed after Gaddafi's initial attempts failed to crush the rebellion that broke out in February. In August, the rebels began advancing on Tripoli, with the Nato planes providing close air support and destroying any attempts by the defenders to block them.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said today that "the operation has reached its end". But how to draw down the campaign will be decided "with our allies and also with input from the (interim government)".

Nato said its commanders were not aware that Gaddafi was in a convoy that Nato bombed as it fled Sirte.

In a statement today, the alliance said an initial strike on Thursday morning was aimed at a convoy of approximately 75 armed vehicles leaving Sirte, the Libyan city defended by Gaddafi loyalists. One vehicle was destroyed, which resulted in the convoy's dispersal. Another jet then engaged about 20 vehicles that were driving at great speed toward the south, destroying or damaging about 10 of them.

"We later learned from open sources and allied intelligence that Gaddafi was in the convoy and that the strike likely contributed to his capture," the statement said.

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