Tags: Libya | Diplomacy

NATO General: 'We're Doing a Great Job' in Libya

Tuesday, 12 Apr 2011 09:41 AM

 

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BRUSSELS — A NATO general is rejecting French criticism of the operation in Libya, saying the alliance is performing well and protecting civilians.

France's foreign minister said earlier Tuesday that NATO needed to do more to take out the heavy weaponry that has repeatedly checked the advances of opposition forces. Alain Juppe told France-Info radio, "NATO has to play its role in full."

Dutch Brig. Gen. Mark Van Uhm says the alliance was successful in enforcing an arms embargo, patrolling a no fly zone and protecting civilians.

Van Uhm says, "I think with the assets we have, we're doing a great job."

NATO took over command of the operation over Libya from the U.S. on March 31.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

LONDON (AP) — Libya's former Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa is traveling to Doha to share his insight on the workings of Moammar Gadhafi's inner circle, British government officials said Tuesday, as NATO searches for solutions following weeks of international airstrikes.

Koussa has been asked to attend the conference on Libya being held in Qatar as a valuable Gadhafi insider, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. News of his trip came as France's foreign minister said NATO needed to do more to take out the heavy weaponry that has repeatedly checked the advances of opposition forces.

"NATO has to play its role in full," Alain Juppe told France-Info radio.

Alliance officials in Brussels did not immediately respond to the criticism, but France's frustration with the developing stalemate on the ground, where Libyan rebels have struggled to capitalize on Western air attacks, has been echoed across Western capitals.

British government officials say they hope that Koussa's trip to Doha, where Arab and Western leaders are meeting to chart the way forward on Libya, will help give participants a better idea of how to force Gadhafi out of office.

"He's a Gadhafi insider. He may be able to offer solutions where others are falling short," one of the officials said, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

In a statement, Britain's Foreign Office confirmed that Koussa was "traveling today to Doha to meet with the Qatari government," as well as Libyan rebel officials, adding that Koussa was "a free individual, who can travel to and from the U.K. as he wishes."

Koussa had been held at a safehouse since he fled to Britain late last month, but agents from Britain's external intelligence agency MI6 stopped questioning Koussa last week, according to the official. Koussa had been staying in a safehouse until late Monday night, according to Noman Benotman, an ex-member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and relative of Koussa who has been in regular contact with the former foreign minister since he fled to Britain.

Although Koussa was provided with legal advice, Benotman said he believed he had "cleared most of the legal hurdles in the U.K." surrounding his alleged involvement in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and arming the Irish Republican Army.

Meanwhile France and Britain sent out conflicting signals about the need to provide succor to the rebel-held city of Misrata, which has been subjected to weeks of punishing bombardment by Gadhafi forces. Juppe said in his interview that the EU had to do more to get humanitarian aid to Misrata, but British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters that aid was still getting through.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, Hague said the aid already delivered there did not need any military backing so far.

"Humanitarian assistance is getting through to Libya, including to Misrata. That, so far, has not needed military assistance to deliver it," Hague said.

The European Union said over the weekend it is ready to launch a humanitarian mission in Misrata soon, with possible military support, if it gets the necessary backing from the U.N.

Meanwhile, IHH, an Islamic aid group in Turkey, said it will send an aid ship to Misrata on Wednesday, carrying food, powdered milk, infant formula, medicines and a mobile health clinic.

The IHH has a self-declared mission to assist Muslims in the region. It deployed dozens of activists, including doctors, two days after the Libyan uprising began in February and established a tent city and a soup kitchen at the border crossing with Tunisia.

Last year, Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists, including one American dual national, in a raid on Mavi Marmara, an IHH-sponsored ship that was trying to breach Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip carrying aid supplies.

The soldiers said they opened fire after coming under attack by a mob of activists wielding clubs, axes and metal rods. The activists said they were defending themselves.

___

Angela Charlton in Paris, Raf Casert in Luxembourg and Selcan Hacaoglu in Turkey contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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