News / Africa

NATO Extends Libya Mission

A woman mourns for her grandson Oussama Achour, a rebel fighter killed during a battle with forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi at Misrata's western front line, May 31, 2011
A woman mourns for her grandson Oussama Achour, a rebel fighter killed during a battle with forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi at Misrata's western front line, May 31, 2011

NATO members and five partner states have agreed to extend their military campaign in Libya for another 90 days in a bid to protect civilians from pro-government forces.

NATO's Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the decision by the Brussels-based alliance and its partners -- four Arab states and Sweden -- to extend the military campaign in Libya sends a clear message to the Gadhafi regime.

"We are determined to continue our operation to protect the people of Libya. We will sustain our efforts to fulfill the United Nations mandate. We will keep up the pressure to see it through," stated Rasmussen.

The pressure against Moammar Gadhafi was also seen at the G8 summit last week in France, where Russia joined other world powers in calling for the Libyan leader's departure. U.S. President Barack Obama said the NATO campaign has a clear goal.

"We agreed that we have made progress in our Libya campaign but that meeting the U.N. mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Gadhafi remains in Libya directing his forces in acts of aggression against the Libyan people. And we are joined in resolve to finish the job," said Obama.

Libya appears to be feeling the heat. The flow of Libyan defectors is stepping up, with the official TAP news agency in neighboring Tunisia reporting five more Libyan officers crossing the border over the weekend. From Rome, several senior Libyan military figures announced on Monday they had defected and called on others to follow suit.

But Gadhafi remains defiant. Following a meeting between the Libyan leader and South African President Jacob Zuma, Pretoria said Tuesday the Libyan leader would not leave his country.  Zuma also criticized intensified NATO bombing raids in Libya as undermining African mediation efforts.

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