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NATO Vows to Help Libyan People for 'As Long as Possible'

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a media conference after a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 9, 2011.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a media conference after a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 9, 2011.

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Sean Maroney

NATO defense ministers have pledged to stay the course in their two-month air campaign against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.  Their comments came a day after coalition warplanes carried out some of the most intense air strikes in Tripoli since the operation began in March.

Defense ministers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) say they are extending the campaign against Libya's Moammar Gadhafi for another 90 days from the end of June.

In a statement issued from their meeting in Brussels, the ministers said the coalition and its partners are determined to continue their operation to protect the Libyan people for "as long as possible."  

They also condemned what they called "continued attacks" by Gadhafi's government against its own population.

"Gadhafi is history," said NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as he addressed the conference Wednesday. "It is no longer a question of if he goes, but when he goes. It may take weeks, but it could happen tomorrow. And when he goes, the international community has to be ready."

In their statement, the NATO defense ministers pledged to play a role, "if requested and if necessary," in Libya's post-conflict efforts.

This is a process that Rasmussen says will come from the Libyans.

"We all know that transforming Libya into a modern democratic state will be a long and complex process. Let me stress it is the people of Libya who will shape the country's future," Rasmussen added.  

On Thursday, the 22-nation Libyan Contact Group is scheduled to hold talks in the United Arab Emirates on how to assist the rebels fighting Colonel Gadhafi. The group agreed last month to set up a fund to provide the rebels with food, medicine and military supplies.

Meanwhile, NATO defense ministers pledged at their conference to deploy additional fixed and rotary wing aircraft to help intensify their efforts in Libya.

The Brussels meeting is the last for U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who steps down at the end of this month.

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