Nato sees end to Libya mission within 90 days
Brussels, September 22, 2011
Nato said on Thursday it was confident it could conclude its mission in Libya before the end of a 90-day extension agreed this week, and called on forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi to surrender.
The Western military alliance, which has bombed Libya since March, has continued to hit holdout positions of Gaddafi loyalists since the leader was toppled a month ago.
Nato's 28 member states agreed on Wednesday to extend the operation's mandate by 90 days. It had been due to expire on Sept 27.
Nato's commander for Libya, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, said the activities of pro-Gaddafi forces were now confined to three isolated areas and they were no longer able to coordinate action.
"I am highly confident that we can complete this mission well within the limits as provided by Nato," Bouchard told a news briefing.
Bouchard said the campaign of air strikes and naval patrols would continue as long as a threat remained to civilians. Nato launched its campaign after the U.N. Security Council authorised military action in March to protect Libyan civilians.
While pro-Gaddafi forces were now confined to the areas of Bani Walid, Sirte and Al Fuqaha, they still possessed multiple rocket launchers, heavy machineguns, surface-to-air weapons and tanks, Bouchard said.
"It behooves us to continue to look for those where required and ensuring they are neutralised," Bouchard said. He said the actions of pro-Gaddafi forces were now limited to "tactical, very localised, actions".
"We are now at a point that I can only urge regime forces to surrender to bring and end to these activities and to find a peaceful settlement," he said. "Clearly if they opt not to do that and continue to threaten the population we will take all necessary means to bringing that to an end."
Bouchard said that based on the reports he had had on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, the areas of Waddan, Hun, Al Jufra and Sabha were all under the control of anti-Gaddafi forces.
"I don't think there are too many places in Libya for (Gaddafi) regime forces to go. The majority of the country is under NTC and anti-Gaddafi control and my assessment of the situation is that these areas are surrounded," he said.
Bouchard repeated Nato statements that he had no idea of the whereabouts of Gaddafi himself. – Reuters