Last Updated: Fri Oct 21, 2011 12:35 pm (KSA) 09:35 am (GMT)

France says NATO operation in Libya ‘must now conclude’

Heavy smoke rises from Sirte city after NATO bombing of the positions of Muammar Qaddafi’s loyalists on Oct. 7, 2011. France says NATO operations in Libya were considered over after Qaddafi’s death. (Photo by Reuters)
Heavy smoke rises from Sirte city after NATO bombing of the positions of Muammar Qaddafi’s loyalists on Oct. 7, 2011. France says NATO operations in Libya were considered over after Qaddafi’s death. (Photo by Reuters)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday the death of toppled Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi meant NATO’s military intervention in the North African country had reached its conclusion.

“Clearly the operation is coming to its end,” Sarkozy told reporters.

Earlier on Friday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told Europe 1 radio that NATO’s military intervention was now over, but he said France would assist the interim authorities in the transition to a democratic government.

“I think we can say that the military operation is finished, that the whole of Libyan territory is under the control of the National Transitional Council and that, subject to a few transitory measures in the week to come, the NATO operation has arrived at its end,” Juppe told Europe 1 radio from India.

The Libyans “have their destiny in their hands,” Juppe said.

“The operation must now conclude because our objective, which was to accompany the forces of the National Transitional Council in the liberation of their territory, has now been reached,” Juppe said.

“Our goal was not to kill Qaddafi. When I say us, I’m talking about the coalition, of France within NATO. Our goal was to force him to relinquish power. It was then up to the National Transitional Council to capture and judge him,” he said.

French, US and British forces spearheaded the air campaign against Qaddafi’s military by the NATO military alliance, which has launched nearly 1,000 strike sorties since March 31.

France was even involved in the ex-strongman’s capture when one of its aircraft fired a warning shot at a convoy of vehicles to stop Qaddafi’s escape attempt.

President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday hailed Qaddafi’s death as “a major step forward” for Libya and urged the country’s new regime to pursue democratic reforms.

NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Admiral James Stavridis, is due to issue a recommendation, “probably (Friday), for the end of the operation” in Libya, a NATO official said earlier.

Another senior official also said Thursday that military planners would recommend “within a day or so” whether to call a complete halt to the mission or “to halt the strikes and continue monitoring for a couple of weeks.”

A final decision to end the NATO mission will rest with the ambassadors of the 28-nation alliance.

Since March 31, NATO warplanes prevented Qaddafi from crushing a rebellion that erupted in February while daily bombing runs left the fugitive former leader’s military in tatters, allowing the ragtag rebel army to take over the country in August.

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