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NATO confident of getting more planes for Libya soon

NATO's chief has said he expects allies to provide more aircraft for precision strikes on Libyan positions soon. Meanwhile the leaders of Britain, France and the United States have again called on Moammar Gadhafi to go.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen

NATO says allies will deliver more planes soon

NATO's chief indicated on Friday that he was confident members of the alliance would soon meet his request to provide more aircraft for strikes on Libya.

"We have got indications that nations will deliver what is needed ... I'm hopeful we will get the necessary assets in the very near future," Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a news conference after a second day of talks with NATO foreign ministers in Berlin.

The issue has caused a rift between NATO allies with France and Britian urging other countries to increase their commitment. NATO's military commander has said the alliance needs more ground-attack planes for precision strikes on Moammar Gadhafi's troops.

Call for patience

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played down growing criticism that the airstrikes are not effective.

"We all need to be a little patient," said Clinton after the end of the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Berlin on Friday. "We are still in the process of trying to identify targets, attack and destroy key elements of Gadhafi's arsenal, his air system and his chain of command."

Meanwhile the leaders of Britain, France and the United States have vowed to sustain their military campaign in Libya until Gadhafi leaves power.

In a jointly written article published in newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic on Friday, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama said leaving Gadhafi in power would be an "unconscionable betrayal" of the Libyan people.

"It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government," the article read.

"So long as Gadhafi is in power, NATO and its coalition partners must maintain their operations so that civilians remain protected."

The article underlined US commitment to the UN-mandated mission against Gadhafi's forces, easing earlier tensions between the allies.

Regime change?

Referring to the joint declaration, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet suggested the wording implied the need for a new UN resolution going beyond the current mandate to include the option of regime change.

"I think that when the three great powers say the same thing, it's important for the United Nations, and perhaps one day the Security Council will make another resolution," Longuet said in an interview.

However, Russia has criticized Western powers for their efforts to boost the military campaign in Libya.

"Today we can see actions that in a number of cases go beyond the mandate of the UN Security Council," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Berlin. "We believe it is important to urgently transfer things into the political course and proceed with a political and diplomatic settlement," he added.

Author: Rob Mudge; Spencer Kimball (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Michael Knigge

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