NATO ambassadors met to try to resolve differences on possible alliance involvement in the campaign against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
After weeks of deliberations, the ambassadors approved an operations plan for NATO to help enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya, but they have yet to agree to implement it or to finalise plans for an alliance role in the no-fly zone.
France, which launched the initial air strikes, has argued against NATO involvement, and alliance member Turkey long argued against any intervention in the North African country, Reuters reports.
On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey wanted several conditions met for a NATO role.
He said Turkey wanted the international military operation against Gaddafi’s forces to be concluded as soon as possible, so Libyans could settle their own future. He also said military intervention should avoid ending in an occupation.
Diplomats say France has argued against NATO involvement on the grounds the alliance’s reputation had been damaged in the Arab world by the war in Afghanistan and because it was seen as dominated by the United States.
French defence officials have said putting NATO in charge of the operation would have made it impossible to get Arab League backing for intervention.
“No decision has been taken. NATO is continuing its work,” a French Foreign Ministry official said on Monday.
Several NATO nations, led by France, Britain and the United States, have taken part in air attacks on Libya, but the role of NATO as an organisation has been limited to expanded air surveillance.
US WON’T HAVE “PRE-EMINENT ROLE”
On Sunday, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates stressed the limits of planned U.S. military involvement.
He said the United States would not have a “pre-eminent role” in the anti-Gaddafi coalition that will maintain a no-fly zone, and expected to turn over primary responsibility for the mission to others within days.
He said Britain or France could take charge of the air operation, or NATO could lead it, if sensitivities in the Arab League over working under NATO leadership were assuaged.
Diplomats said it would be easier to get an agreement on enforcing the arms embargo, which would involve use of alliance aircraft and ships to prevent weapons reaching Gaddafi’s forces.
“There are some very basic questions that need to be resolved,” a NATO diplomat said.
“The general question is what NATO should do and what the coalition of the willing should do and in what timeframe we are talking about — is the coalition of willing something for the short term or the longer term?
“Some nations still have to make up their minds really what they want to do in the longer term — do they want to be engaged in the longer term and take the lead?”
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called on Monday for a greater NATO role.
“It’s time to move from a coalition of willing towards a bit more coordinated approach under NATO because NATO has the capacity, the experience to lead a well-coordinated action,” he said ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
An Italian foreign ministry official said Italy considered the current three-way command structure involving France, Britain and the United States and the resulting bombing campaign “anarchic” and said it “poses problems to the Arab world”.
The official said Italy wanted to see “a circumscribing of the military objectives and limits to escalation”.