NATO chief to push nations for more help on Libya

June 6, 2011 - 11:44 AM
Belgium NATO Libya

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Monday, June 6, 2011. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the damaging or destroying of 1,800 military targets so far has degraded the power of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi to the extent that he will certainly be forced from power. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday he will ask some of the more reluctant allies to step up their participation in the military campaign against Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Fogh Rasmussen said that the three-month extension of the Libya mission decided last week has raised the question of using additional assets from NATO nations which have yet to participate to their full potential.

He did not mention specific nations but said he would make it a "focus" of the two-day NATO defense ministerial opening Wednesday at alliance headquarters in Brussels. Britain and France have been heavily involved since the mission started two months ago.

"Obviously some of those allies and partners carrying the heavy burden start to ask whether it would be possible to broaden the participation a bit," Rasmussen said.

"That is a point I will focus on at the defense ministers meeting," he told reporters. "That is also the essence of our alliance: that allies that actually have the necessary assets at their disposal, also contribute those assets , based the principle of solidarity."

Fourteen of the 17 nations currently involved in the operation are NATO nations.

Germany has shunned any involvement in the international campaign of military air strikes over Libya and has argued early on it was too risky.

"The attitude of the federal government remains unchanged," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Monday. He said Germany will provide humanitarian help and assist with efforts to rebuild the nation if Gadhafi is removed from power.

The United States handed control of the mission to NATO in late March but continues to fly sorties and provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has warned other allies late last month that despite it being at the forefront of the military operation against Gadhafi's troops, the patience of Paris is limited, saying its will to fight there would not "last longer than a few months."

British and French attack helicopters struck for the first time inside Libya over the weekend, significantly ramping up NATO's operations.

The overall campaign so far has damaged or destroyed some 1,800 military targets, which will eventually lead to Gadhafi's ouster, said Fogh Rasmussen, without providing a timeline for his prediction.

"We have degraded Gadhafi's war machine considerably," seen the opposition forces advancing, Russia joining the call for Gadhafi to leave power and defections from within the regime, he said.

"All these elements will put more and more pressure" on Gadhafi, Fogh Rasmussen said. "It is not a question of if but when he will have to leave power," he said.

Fogh Rasmussen said some 100 command and control center have been targeted, on top of over 700 ammunition stores and almost 500 tanks, armored personnel carriers and rocket launchers.