NATO agrees to enforce no-fly zone over Libya

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels that the military alliance’s mandate includes a no-fly zone over Libya, the protection of Libyan civilians, the enforcement of the U.N. arms embargo and the support of humanitarian efforts there. Rasmussen added that NATO forces could act in self-defense.

Rasmussen appeared to contradict an earlier statement by Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, that NATO would take command of all coalition military operations in Libya.

“At this moment, there will still be a coalition operation and a NATO operation,” Rasmussen said. “But we are considering whether NATO should take on that broader responsibility in accordance with the U.N. Security Council resolution, but that decision has not been made yet.”

Talks to unite both missions and transfer control of the broader campaign to NATO would continue through the weekend with a decision expected by Monday.

Bombing campaigns against Khadafi’s tanks and artillery will stay in the hands of the coalition led by the United States, Britain and France.

Rasmussen’s announcement followed days of negotiations and a breakthrough this week when Turkey agreed to back the plan.

Agreement from all 28 members of NATO is required to back any agreement, and Turkey had previously rejected backing any plan unless it was given assurances that the operation would be limited to protecting civilians, enforcing an arms embargo and a no-fly zone, and providing humanitarian aid.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the U.S. was taking the next step in military operations against Libya by transferring command and control of the no-fly zone to NATO.

Clinton said NATO had agreed to protect Libyan civilians, enforce the UN arms embargo on the North African country and support humanitarian aid efforts there.

Clinton also said all members of the alliance had authorized military authorities to develop an operations plan for NATO to take on the broader civilian protection mission under resolution 1973.

She said the coalition action had made “significant” progress in Libya.

“Khadafi’s troops have been pushed back, but they remain a serious threat to the safety” of the Libyan people, she said.

Clinton also praised the United Arab Emirates for becoming the second Arab country after Qatar to send planes to help the mission. The UAE will deploy 12 planes.

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