Friday, March 25, 2011

Libya: Nato to control no-fly zone after France gives way to Turkey

Western allies and Turkey have secured a deal to put the entire military campaign against Muammar Gaddafi under Nato command by next week, UK and French sources have told the Guardian.

The US, Britain, France and Turkey agreed to put the three-pronged offensive – a no-fly zone, an arms embargo, and air strikes – under a Nato command umbrella, in a climbdown by France that accommodates strong Turkish complaints about the scope and control of the campaign.

The deal appeared to end days of infighting among western allies, but needed to be blessed by all 28 Nato member states. At the end of a four-day meeting of Nato ambassadors in Brussels, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general, said Nato had agreed to take command of the no-fly zone from the Americans. Disputes have raged at Nato HQ every day this week. Rasmussen contradicted leading western officials by announcing that Nato's authority was limited to commanding the no-fly zone, but he signalled there was more negotiation to come.

"At this moment, there will still be a coalition operation and a Nato operation," he said. This meant Nato would command the no-fly zone and police the arms embargo. But on the most contentious part, air strikes and ground attacks against Gaddafi, consensus remained elusive.

The agreement emerged from phone calls between William Hague, the foreign secretary, Alain Juppé, the French foreign minister, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, following rancorous attacks from the Turkish leadership on French ambitions to lead the anti-Gaddafi war effort.