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Clinton: US Will Support NATO Mission in Libya

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States will continue to support the NATO mission in Libya until its work is complete.

Speaking to NATO foreign ministers in Berlin Thursday, Clinton said it is important for the coalition to maintain its unity as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi tests its resolve.

Members of the alliance have been divided over whether to step up a bombing campaign against forces loyal to Colonel Gadhafi. Britain and France have called for allies to invest more in the military operation, while the United States has sought to limit its role.

Rebels have struggled to maintain control over the few towns they have been able to seize from government forces. On Thursday, rebels say Gadhafi's troops fired rockets into the city of Misrata killing at least nine people. The government has been accused of targeting civilians in the port city.

Meantime, another international meeting on Libya is taking place at Arab League headquarters in Cairo.  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton are attending, as are representatives of the African Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The Berlin talks come a day after an international contact group joining U.S., European and Arab partners, pledged more monetary and political support for the Libyan opposition at a meeting in Doha.

Libyan rebel spokesman Mahmoud Shamman told delegates at the meeting that NATO is not doing enough to protect civilians.  He also appealed for greater U.S. involvement in the alliance's air campaign.

In their final statement, the group called on Gadhafi to leave power, saying he and his government had "lost all legitimacy."

In Benghazi, a spokesman for the rebels' Transitional National Council told reporters there is a possibility that three nations could supply them with arms.  He said discussions with those countries were positive, but did not reveal which were involved in the talks.

NATO took over command of the operation over Libya from the United States on March 31.  The alliance has carried out airstrikes against loyalist forces to enforce a U.N.-authorized "no fly" zone and protect civilians from attack by Gadhafi's troops.

The Pentagon confirmed Wednesday that 11 U.S. fighter jets have been transferred to NATO command to conduct airstrikes as assigned.  U.S. military officials said the planes have flown 97 sorties since the transition to NATO command, firing weapons during three of those missions.  Washington had announced earlier that the U.S. role in Libya had become one of support rather than active combat.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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