Sweden approves restricted Libya forces mandate


Sweden will extend its participation in the military alliance against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi with three fewer aircraft, which will carry out reconnaissance operations for the NATO-led forces.

Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Wednesday said the Nordic nation would cut the number of Gripen fighter jets it commits to the alliance to five from eight, but this was enough to carry out its mission.
“To maintain the military pressure is very important … so that the political process may lead to a very fast solution, so that we then can move over to democracy and state building in Libya,” Bildt told reporters. “There will be more surveillance operations that what we’ve been able to achieve so far.”

Swedish jets have been patrolling the UN no-fly zone since early April, but Bildt said that operations would now focus on reconnaissance.

NATO took responsibility for the Libya mission on March 31. Officials from the alliance had asked Sweden to extend the Gripen surveillance mission.

The Swedish government also said it would expand its contribution to humanitarian efforts in Libya.

In addition to the Gripens, Sweden has also confirmed it will contribute a naval boarding team, which will fall under British control. The size of the team will be determined by the Swedish Armed Forces (Forsvarsmakten).

Civil war in the vast North African desert oil producer ignited in February when Gaddafi tried to crush pro-democracy rallies against his 41-year-old rule, inspired by uprisings that have toppled or endangered other rulers across the Arab world.

The Gripen took part in operations against Gaddafi on April 7 in the first combat sortie by the Nordic country’s air force since the early 1960s. The aircraft had carried out a mission lasting about 40 minutes, according to plan, and had returned safely to their base in southern Italy.

The last time Sweden flew combat missions was in the Congo in the early 1960s, under United Nations orders.

The country, which has not fought a war for 200 years, sent eight single-seat JAS 39 Gripens to the Sigonella airbase at the start of April to help patrol the no-fly zone.

The jets have been forbidden by Swedish authorities to carry out any ground attacks other than in self defence, conditions agreed with NATO.