NATO formally extends Libya mission for 90 days as govt warns of worst case scenario
ABEER TAYEL, Al Arabiya with Agencies

NATO allies agreed Wednesday to extend the campaign in Libya for another 90 days, prolonging the mission until late September, the alliance said. Powerful explosions, meanwhile, rocked Tripoli as NATO pressed its air war amid Libyan charges it has killed 718 civilians. “NATO and partners have just decided to extend our mission for Libya for another 90 days,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, according to Agence-France Presse.

“This decision sends a clear message to the Qaddafi regime: We are determined to continue our operation to protect the people of Libya,” he said in a statement after the North Atlantic Council, the decision-making body of the 28-nation alliance, agreed to extend the mission.

“We will sustain our efforts to fulfill the United Nations mandate. We will keep up the pressure to see it through,” Mr. Rasmussen said.

Mr. Rasmussen said NATO was determined to ensure the Libyan people could shape their own future and, according to Reuters, “that day is getting closer.”

In the Libyan capital, government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told a news conference that 10 weeks of NATO-led air strikes authorized by the United Nations Security Council to protect civilians had also wounded 4,067.

"Worst case scenario"

He warned the departure of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, as demanded by NATO and the G8, would be a “worst case scenario” for Libya.

“Since March 19, and up to May 26, there have been 718 martyrs among civilians and 4,067 wounded—433 of them seriously,” Mr. Ibrahim said, citing health ministry figures which cannot be independently verified,

He said these figures do not include Libyan military casualties, a toll the defense ministry refuses to divulge.

Soon after he spoke late on Tuesday, six powerful explosions rocked the center of Tripoli, the target of more and more intensive air raids by NATO warplanes for more than a week, AFP reported.

Mr. Ibrahim ruled out the embattled 68-year-old colonel stepping down from power.

“If Qaddafi goes, the security valve will disappear,” he said.

“Qaddafi’s departure would be the worst case scenario for Libya,” he told reporters, and warned of “civil war.”

Mr. Ibrahim also denied that South African President Jacob Zuma, who met Colonel Qaddafi in Tripoli on Monday, had discussed an “exit strategy” with him.

President Zuma “never discussed any exit strategies as they have been described in the media,” the spokesman said.

Earlier, a statement from the South African presidency in Pretoria said Mr. Qaddafi would not leave Libya despite growing international pressure and intensified NATO strikes on his regime.

The South African president said raids by NATO, which is enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya and protecting civilians from a government crackdown under a UN mandate, were undermining African mediation efforts.

(Abeer Tayel, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: abeer.tayel@mbc.net)





2 Jun 2011 - 07:44 by WDNF International | comments (0)