'No plans to intervene in Libya, but ready to respond'

NATO chief Rasmussen says any action would require a clear UN mandate, widespread international support.

March 9, 2011 17:41
2 minute read.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

LONDON - NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday the alliance was not looking to intervene in Libya but its military was ready to respond to any developments at short notice.

Rasmussen said any action would require a clear United Nations mandate and widespread international support.

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"NATO is not looking to intervene in Libya, but we have asked our military to conduct prudent planning for all eventualities," Rasmussen told Britain's Sky News. "If requested and if needed we can respond at very short notice. There are a lot of sensitivities in the region as regards with what might be considered foreign military interference. This is why any action should be based on a very broad international support including support from the region."

British Prime Minister David Cameron struck a similar tone on Wednesday when he said that Britain was seeking international support for any measures to be taken against the Libyan leadership, including a no-fly zone.

The international community has so far been hesitant about its response and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made it clear that Washington believes that imposing a no-fly zone is a matter for the United Nations. Rasmussen agreed.

"Let me stress the imposition of a no-fly zone would be quite a complicated undertaking and it would also require a new United Nations mandate," he said. "The current UN security council resolution does not authorize the use of armed forces."

Also on Wednesday, the Pentagon said the US is still looking at a full range of military options on Libya, a day before NATO defense ministers gather for a meeting likely to expand on Western nations' deliberations about a no-fly zone.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters that US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who concluded a visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday, was expected to discuss Libya with counterparts from other NATO nations during the regular ministerial meeting beginning on Thursday.

"We are preparing, as we've made clear for days and days now, a range of military options for the president, including a no-fly zone and each of those options will also spell out the potential consequences of each course of action," Morrell said.

Earlier Wednesday, Muammar Gaddafi said the Libyan people will take up arms against Western powers if they seek to enforce a no-fly zone in their country's airspace, on an interview with Turkish state-run television.

"If they take such a decision it will be useful for Libya, because the Libyan people will see the truth, that what they want is to take control of Libya and to steal their oil," Gaddafi said in the interview which was broadcast by TRT news channel.

"Then the Libyan people will take up arms against them," he said. The interview was conducted in Arabic and aired with Turkish subtitles.

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