NATO Endorses Decision to Extend Libya Operation

BRUSSELS, Bel­gium, June 8, 2011 — NATO defense min­is­ters have endorsed the deci­sion to extend Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor by 90 days, Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Ras­mussen said here today.
The exten­sion autho­rizes NATO to con­tin­ue oper­a­tions through the end of Sep­tem­ber, the sec­re­tary gen­er­al said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the alliance’s head­quar­ters in con­junc­tion with a meet­ing of NATO defense min­is­ters in which Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates is par­tic­i­pat­ing.

The NATO effort in Libya has made progress, Ras­mussen said.

“If you look at the sit­u­a­tion we have in Libya now and com­pare it with the sit­u­a­tion when Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor began,” he said, “it is clear how much NATO and its part­ners have achieved.”

Alliance forces stopped Moam­mar Gadhafi’s advance on Beng­hazi, pre­vent­ing a mas­sacre, Ras­mussen said. “We have pre­served inno­cent lives by keep­ing the air and sea open for human­i­tar­i­an aid, even while we closed it to weapons and mer­ce­nar­ies,” he added.

Alliance forces have pre­pared the ground for a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment by mak­ing it clear there is no future for vio­lence and repres­sion in Libya, the sec­re­tary gen­er­al said. “All of the min­is­ters agreed that we will keep up the pres­sure for as long as it takes to put this cri­sis to an ear­ly con­clu­sion,” he told reporters.

NATO min­is­ters agreed to con­tin­ue to sup­port the effort in Libya, the sec­re­tary gen­er­al said, by pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary capa­bil­i­ties to con­tin­ue and con­clude the oper­a­tion.

“We agreed that the time has come to plan for the day after the con­flict,” Ras­mussen said. “Gad­hafi is his­to­ry. It is no longer a ques­tion of if he goes, but when he goes. It may take weeks, but it could hap­pen tomor­row. The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty has to be ready.”

NATO will not have a lead­ing role in Libya after the con­flict, the sec­re­tary gen­er­al said.

“The time to start plan­ning is now,” he added, “because Gadhafi’s reign of ter­ror is com­ing to an end, and we must be pre­pared for when it is over.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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