In Europe, Deep Divisions Remain Over Libya
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The members of NATO have again failed to agree on who would take over command of military actions in Libya. The U.S. is anxious to hand over leadership of the operation. But NATO ambassadors meeting in Brussels failed to find consensus after a third day of talks. One diplomat told the Reuters news agency that there has been no decision on anything and that Turkey expressed the strongest reservations.
Here's NPR's Philip Reeves.
PHILIP REEVES: The operation against the regime of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi is in its fifth day. The nations taking part still haven't agreed who will be in command. Key players, including the U.S., Britain and Italy, want NATO to take charge.
James Blitz, diplomatic editor of the Financial Times says others disagree.
Mr. JAMES BLITZ (Diplomatic Editor, Financial Times): The problem you've got is that there are two countries, France and Turkey in particular, which have never wanted there to be a very strong NATO hat over the whole operation.
REEVES: Turkey is a member of NATO. Yet, it's also strongly critical of aspects of U.S. and Western foreign policy, which is one reason why, says Blitz, Turkey doesn't want the alliance to be in charge.
Mr. BLITZ: Turkey's fundamental problem is it doesn't particularly like the idea of NATO getting involved in an incursion in Africa or the Middle East. And it's also got a very hostile approach to the international operation in Libya. It basically is highly resistant to what is happening.
REEVES: After today's NATO meeting, the Turkish foreign minister said it was impossible for Turkey to share responsibility for an operation some have described as a crusade.
Norway's also not happy. It's among the NATO countries who want the alliance to have command. It's now threatening to withdraw the six fighter jets it's committed to the operation. The attack on Libya was launched with extraordinary speed, just two days after the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution authorizing a no-fly zone.
There was no time for the coalition leaders to complete negotiations over command and control. The talks have been fraught and sometimes ill-tempered. In the last few days, the issues created tensions within the alliance. The ambassadors to Germany and France walked out of a NATO meeting Monday. Since then, tempers have cooled. The French seem to have softened their stance.
They now want the operation to be overseen by a political steering body comprising the main countries involved and the Arab League. NATO's role should be technical, they say, although this means providing military command and control.
Jan Techau, a security policy expert with the Carnegie Endowment, says that would still mean NATO is center stage in the operation.
Mr. JAN TECHAU (Security Policy Expert, Carnegie Endowment): The technical assets of NATO headquarters and command structures, that will always be the backbone of the operational kind of layer. And then the big question is about, you know, political leadership.
REEVES: The French want to play down NATO's involvement because they believe the Arab world dislikes the alliance. The sparse involvement of Arab nations is still one of the coalition's biggest worries. Britain's prime minister David Cameron told Parliament today that Qatar sent a couple of Mirage jets. He said Kuwait and Jordan are offering logistical help and he's been talking to Saudi Arabia. But Cameron said he would like more.
Prime Minister DAVID CAMERON (Great Britain): I hope further support will be forthcoming. But I would be clear about this - because we had to act so quickly on Saturday, it wasn't possible to bring forward as much Arab supporters perhaps would've been welcomed, I think, by everybody in this House.
REEVES: Techau says the question of who takes command of the Libya operation is just one of many issues facing the coalition. He thinks its long-term goals in Libya are still very unclear and need to be defined.
Mr. TECHAU: That's the next grand question that NATO has to answer. No matter what the compromise looks like that they're going to hammer out, the big question remains, what of the political goal in Libya?
REEVES: Coalition leaders are to meet in London next week. That question is sure to come up, along with many others.
Philip Reeves, NPR News, London.
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