NATO extends military operation in Libya

A French Navy Super Etendard jet fighter (AFP Photo / Alexander Klein)
NATO has decided to prolong its military operation in Libya till the end of September, the secretary-general of the alliance, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, announced. Meanwhile, Libya has blamed NATO for killing more than 700 civilians in the operation.

­According to Rasmussen’s announcement, made in Brussels on Wednesday, the extension of the operation should give a “clear signal” to Muammar Gaddafi and his government that NATO is ready to continue the war and will not release the pressure.

Officially, the decision to prolong military involvement by 90 days will come into force on June 27, three months after NATO agreed to lead the operation, started by the UK, the US and France.

In the meantime, the Libyan officials announced that since the beginning of the operation on March 19, more than 700 civilians have been killed and more than 4,000 injured in the NATO air raids. The information, collected by the Libyan Ministry of Health, was announced by the government’s press-secretary Mussa Ibrahim on Wednesday. However, Mussa Ibrahim stressed the number refers to civilian deaths only, as the Defense Ministry of Libya refused to disclose military casualties.

At least 1,200 civilians have died or gone missing while trying to flee the war-torn country, a UN official said Tuesday.

The last bombing was conducted by NATO early on Tuesday, hours after Colonel Gaddafi signaled he was ready to accept a ceasefire plan during talks with the South African President Jacob Zuma. In response to the action, Zuma said NATO bombings impede the peacemaking mission of the African Union in Libya.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Council has accused both Colonel Gaddafi's troops and the opposition forces of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, AFP reported on Wednesday. The forum's verdict is based on meetings with 350 people across the country, along with thousands of pieces of supporting documentation.

While NATO says it is necessary to carry on the campaign in order to "protect the people of Libya," editor of an independent news website, James Corbett, calls that “a lie”.

­“The idea of protecting civilians by bombing civilian population is on its face ridiculous and in itself exposes that this is not about humanitarian intervention,” the expert told RT.

“And that lie has been thoroughly exposed by the fact that the initial no fly zone turned pretty much overnight into a bombing campaign, which we were promised was not to overthrow the regime and get Gaddafi out there. But then it was revealed in a New York Times Op Ed by Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron that that was indeed the exact aim of this. And then there was the promise that there would be no ground troops involved. And now footage has emerged in the last couple of day showing foreign, presumably British, special forces on the ground advising the Libyan so-called democratic rebels,” he concluded.

Experts agree saying that the intervention is all about regime change in the country, and not aimed on helping innocent civilians.

Last week, the leaders of the G8 summit declared the current Libyan regime illegitimate and claimed Gaddafi must go. According to summit members, the transition in Libya should be fulfilled by the Libyan people themselves.  

Moscow consented to be a peace mediator in Libya, a role offered by G8, and already carried out meetings with both representatives of pro-Gaddafi forces and opposition.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointed out on Tuesday that a compromise between the government and opposition may be reached and added that NATO should not prevent it from happening.

"The main thing is that external forces, external players, including those who have ventured to overstep the mandate of the UN Security Council resolution, shouldn't stand in the way of those forces," the Russian foreign minister said.