NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ezequiel Scagnetti)
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Tuesday he would not guess how long the alliance's military mission would last in Libya, but there could be no solely military solution.
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Speaking after an international coalition pledged to continue military action against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and agreed to set up a contact group to coordinate political efforts, Rasmussen urged all parties to seek a political solution as soon as possible.
"I am not going to guess," he told Reuters when asked how long the NATO mission could last and whether it could become a financial burden for alliance states on top of their long commitment in Afghanistan.
"But I do hope that we'll see a political solution to the problems in Libya as soon as possible. Clearly there's no military solution, solely, to the problems in Libya," he said.
NATO agreed on Sunday to take over all operations in Libya from a coalition led by the United States, France and Britain, putting the 28-nation alliance in charge of air strikes that have targeted Muammar Gaddafi's military infrastructure, as well as a UN-mandated no-fly zone and an arms embargo.
NATO officials say alliance planning foresees a 90-day operation, but the timetable would depend on the United Nations.
"We are there to protect civilians against attack, but in order to find a
long-term sustainable solution to the conflict in Libya, we need a
political process and I would ask all parties involved to seek such
political solutions sooner rather than later," Rasmussen said.
NATO forces will reach initial capacity to take over military operations
in Libya on Wednesday and should be fully operational on Thursday, NATO
spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said.
On Tuesday, the coalition of countries conducting air strikes against Gaddafi's forces
launched 22 Tomahawk missiles in the last 24
hours, the Pentagon said.
Coalition countries also
flew 115 strike sorties, the Pentagon said in a new tally of military
activities over the last 24 hours.