NATO says takeover of Libya strikes to take 'couple of days'

NATO says takeover of Libya strikes to take 'couple of days'

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the 28-nation alliance hopes the mission will be "as short as possible" once it relieves a US-led coalition launched to protect civilians from Muammer Gaddafi's forces since March 19.

"Nations are assigning assets to NATO authority as we speak," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told a news briefing, stressing that the transition is "not instantaneous."
"It is a phased transition that is expected to take place over a couple of days," Lungescu said.

"In terms of the duration of the operation, obviously I think everybody is hoping that this operation will be as short as possible," the spokeswoman said.

Group Captain Geoffrey Booth, of NATO's international military staff, said Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, commander of the alliance mission in Libya, had yet to "actively" take control of "all aspects" of the operation.

"NATO is only enforcing the no-fly zone, so the attacks that are being done on ground assets at the moment are coalition operations, not NATO," Booth said.

NATO ships last week began enforcing an arms embargo against Libya and an alliance plane flew the first flight yesterday to enforce the no-fly zone aimed at keeping Kadhafi's air force grounded.

Ambassadors of the 28-nation alliance agreed to take on the broader mission after days of wrangling over political control.

France wanted to keep the ground strikes in the hands of the international coalition, but several NATO members insisted on transferring the lead to the military organisation, which has a unified command structure.

Turkey, for its part, has criticised the scope of coalition action in Libya and wanted to ensure NATO's mission would not exceed the mandate set by the UN Security Council to protect the population from attacks.

Lungescu said the decision-making will remain in the hands of the North Atlantic Council, NATO's decision-making body, in consultation with regional partners and countries contributing to the effort.

An international conference on Libya hosted by London on Tuesday will provide a "political framework" for the way ahead in the strife-torn country, she said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will attend the conference, which will include foreign ministers from more than 35 countries as well as the heads of the United Nations and African Union.

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