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Nato delays formal Libya decision

Nato unexpectedly postponed a definite decision to end its bombing campaign in Libya as consultations continued with the United Nations and the country's interim government over how and when to wind down the operation.

Last week the alliance announced preliminary plans to phase out its mission on October 31. Nato's governing body - the North Atlantic Council (NAC) - was expected to formalise that decision.

Air patrols have continued in the meantime because some alliance members were concerned that a quick end to Nato's seven-month operation could lead to a resurgence in violence.

Spokeswoman Carmen Romero said Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen was consulting the United Nations and Libya's National Transitional Council.

"The NAC will meet with partners on Friday to discuss our Libya mission and take a formal decision," she said, adding that there was an "ongoing process" in the UN Security Council.

US defence secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday that some of Libya's leaders had called for Nato to continue its mission "during this interim as they try to establish some new governance".

And at the United Nations, Libya's deputy UN ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi asked the Security Council on Wednesday to delay lifting the no-fly zone and ending its authorisation to protect civilians.

However, a Nato official said the alliance had not received any formal request from Libya's transitional government to prolong its air and naval patrols past the end of the month.

Nato's 26,000 sorties, including 9,600 strike missions, have destroyed about 5,900 military targets since they started on March 31. These included Libya's air defences and more than 1,000 tanks, vehicles and guns, as well as Muammar Gaddafi's command and control networks.

The daily air strikes enabled the rebels' forces to advance and take Tripoli two months ago. On Sunday, Libya's interim rulers declared the country liberated, launching the oil-rich nation on what is meant to be a two-year transition to democracy.


From Belfast Telegraph