NATO has urged members to raise their contributions to military efforts in Libya on Wednesday, after defense ministers from NATO's 28 member countries met in Brussels.
Following the first day of a two-day meeting discussing NATO involvement in Libya, NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, asserted that progress was being made. "For Gadhafi, it is no longer a question of if he goes but when he goes," Rasmussen told a news conference.
"All ministers agreed we will keep up the pressure for as long as it takes to bring this to an early conclusion," he added.
In a joint statement released after the meeting, however, NATO members confirmed that they would "welcome additional contributions to our common efforts".
Led by France and the UK, only eight of the 28 NATO allies have been conducting airstrikes on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces.
On Tuesday, NATO struck Tripoli with the heaviest aerial bombardment since the United Nations passed a mandate in March, which appears to have left resources stretched. This week, a senior US official warned that fatigue was beginning to set in among the aircrews, although there were no risks to the operation as yet.
NATO allies unmoved
There were no indications, however, that any countries were willing to alter their stance on the military campaign by increasing their contribution.
"Germany sticks to its position, no military engagement," German Deputy Defense Minister Christian Schmidt told reporters.
Spain also vowed that it would not take part in strike missions. "It will be the same contribution, the same format," said Spanish Defense Minister Carme Chacon. She added, however, that Spain would keep up its role of assisting in enforcing a no-fly zone and an arms embargo.
Sweden, a non-NATO participant said that it would scale down its military role, revealing it would cut the number of fighter jets it has deployed to five from eight. Sweden also said it fighter jets would no longer be used to patrol the no-fly zone, but for reconnaissance sorties instead. Norway has also announced that it would no longer commit as many resources to NATO airstrikes.
Mass rape as a weapon
Meanwhile, as NATO aerial bombardments were paused on Wednesday, Gadhafi stepped up attacks on rebel forces in the western rebel stronghold, Misrata.
Thousands of troops loyal to the Libyan leader advanced on Misrata, killing at least 12 rebels in shelling attacks. A further 26 people were wounded.
There was no immediate comment from Gadhafi's government. In an audio message broadcast late on Tuesday, however, Gadhafi called on his supporters to resist all NATO attacks.
"Despite the bombings, we will never submit," Gadhafi said in a nine-minute message, broadcast on his 69th birthday.
Gadhafi is currently facing investigation after The International Criminal Court received reports that he had provided Viagra-type drugs to his troops to encourage mass rape.
Chief ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said the allegations suggest that the Libyan government was using rape as a weapon in its fight against rebel forces.
"Now we are getting some information that Gadhafi himself decided to rape and this is new," Moreno-Ocampo told reporters.
Since the fighting erupted in February, there have been several reports of women being raped by government troops.
Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (AFP, AP, Reuters)
Editor: Nicole Goebel