US presses Turkey to join Libya air bombing

The Obama administration criticized five key military allies Wednesday to take on a greater share of the NATO-led air campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces, illustrating the strains of a three-month intervention in Libya that has no time frame for an exit.

The pressure on Germany, Poland, Spain, Turkey and Netherlands comes as the alliance continues with intensified airstrikes on Libya’s capital.

Gates said Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands should enhance their limited participation in noncombat operations by joining in strike missions against ground targets, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal NATO deliberations. They said Gates pressed Germany and Poland, the two countries not participating at all militarily, to help in some form.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton likely will restate Gates’ argument Thursday when NATO nations and Arab governments participating in the air campaign meet in the United Arab Emirates.

Responding to the US criticism, Turkish National Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said Thursday that the Turkish prime minister, government and Turkish president would decide on a possible role for Turkey in air bombing of Libya when the issue came up on the agenda of the government.

I have not yet received Mr. Gates’s demand and his words on the issue, Gonul told reporters in southern province of Antalya on Thursday.

Our decision on Libya has two dimensions. One of them has to do with the embargo while the other involves humanitarian assistance. We are contributing to the embargo with four frigates, one submarine and six F-16 jets. We have a principled decision on not participating in the “No Fly Zone”. The decision is valid today. Once Mr. Gates’s demand reaches the Turkish government, our Prime Minister, the whole government and our President would assess the situation, Gonul also said.