NATO 'pretty close' to ending Libya mission

AFP , Monday 10 Oct 2011

Gaddafi is not a target, says NATO chief

NATO Secretary General Rasmussen said the Alliance was close to terminating its miltiary operation in Libya, repeating that Muammar Gaddafi was "not a target."

"We are pretty close to the very end of this operation", NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is in Bucharest to attend NATO's parliamentary assembly session, told journalists.

"We will continue our operation as long as necessary to make sure there are no threats against civilians but we stand ready to terminate the operation as soon as the situation allows," he added.

Rasmussen said that despite advances by the new regime forces in fugitive strongman Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, the Alliance "had no knowledge of the colonel's whereabouts". "But he is not a target of our operation," he stressed.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last week said there were four "guidelines" for deciding when to halt the Libyan campaign. The first condition was the outcome of the battle for Sirte. The others were whether Gaddafi forces could still attack civilians; whether Gaddafi himself could command fighters and whether the new leaders could secure the country.

The National Transitional Council (NTC) has been waiting for Sirte's full capture to declare the liberation of the whole of Libya, clearing the way to draw up a timetable for elections.

Rasmussen had earlier told NATO lawmakers that the Allies' operation "Unified Protector" had been a success, despite the global financial crisis.

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