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NATO seeks role, as defiant Gadhafi says Libya is 'ready for battle'

Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi has said his forces would win the battle against the West by any means, as the international community continued to squabble over who would assume operational control.

Gadhafi speaking on the balcony of his building

A defiant Gadhafi spoke to his supporters

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi put on a show of defiance late Tuesday, addressing supporters who had gathered outside his compound in Tripoli.

"We will not surrender," he told them, vowing that his regime "will win this battle."

Coalition forces continued their airstrikes Wednesday, this time on the city of Misrata, where rebels have been involved in heavy fighting with Gadhafi forces. Unconfirmed reports said dozens of people had been killed in tank and artillery bombardments since Tuesday. Witnesses said snipers were also targeting rebels in the city.

Allied forces have destroyed the Libyan air force and are flying with impunity across its airspace, attacking ground troops wherever they threaten the civilian population, a senior British commander said on Wednesday.

"We are now applying sustained and unrelenting pressure on the Libyan armed forces," Air Vice Marshal Greg Bagwell said, according to the text of remarks at an airbase in southern Italy where British jets are based.

Meanwhile, coalition partners were still wrangling over what, if any, role NATO should play in the military operations. The US is keen to hand over military leadership to the alliance, and, while France, Britain and the US agreed that the security alliance's command structure should play a "key role" in the ongoing military operation, the specifics have not been resolved.

According to French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, NATO is to assume an operational role rather than a political one. "NATO will intervene as a planning and operational driving tool," he said in Paris.

No end in sight

This comes in the wake of his proposal to create a special political structure that would guide the military operations. The group, Juppe said, would comprise the foreign ministers from the coalition countries involved in the airstrikes as well as from the Arab League. Juppe said the group would meet for the first time in London next Tuesday.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday no one was in a position to predict the outcome in Libya, where Western powers have launched attacks on forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.

"The no-fly zone is not time limited by the [UN] Security Council resolution. So I think that there is no current timeline in terms of when it might end," Gates told reporters during a visit to Egypt.

The EU announced Wednesday that it had extended its sanctions against Libya, specifically targeting the country's state-run National Oil Corporation along with several subsidiaries, which have been identified as a primary source of funding for Gadhafi's regime.

Infografik militärisches Drohpotential Libyen englisch

Staying out of the fight

On Tuesday, NATO agreed to use its naval forces to enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya. As a result, Germany announced that some ships and air crews would be withdrawn from NATO missions in the Mediterranean to avoid being pulled into the Libya conflict as NATO becomes more involved.

Two frigates and two other ships with crews totaling 550 and around 50 additional troops participating in NATO air surveillance would be placed under German command again.

Germany did not object to NATO taking the lead, but Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle reiterated that his country would not send troops to Libya.

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Tuesday poured scorn on Berlin's decision to abstain in the UN Security Council vote, describing it as a "scandalous mistake" and the government's behavior as a "farce."

"Germany has forfeited its credibility in the UN and in the Middle East," Fischer wrote in the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily.

Author: Rob Mudge, Michael Knigge (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson



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