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Turkish TV: NATO to command Libya operation

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By SUZAN FRASER
The Associated Press
Thursday, March 24, 2011; 3:09 PM

ANKARA, Turkey -- NATO appeared on Thursday to move closer to assuming command of the military operation in Libya when Turkey's foreign minister was quoted as saying an agreement has been reached.

The alliance needs the approval of all 28 of its members in order to coordinate the operation, and Turkey had set conditions on that role for NATO.

"The coalition that was formed following the Paris meeting will abandon the mission and hand it over entirely to a single command system under NATO," Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted as saying by Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency.

"All of Turkey's concerns, demands on the issue have been met," he said, and NATO has promised to complete the work needed to take over the Libya mission "within one or two days."

Earlier in the day, Turkey's parliament authorized the government to participate in military operations in Libya, including the no-fly zone. Turkey is NATO's only Muslim member.

Turkey's government had insisted that any NATO mission, including the no-fly zone, must be restricted to protecting civilians, enforcing the arms embargo and providing humanitarian aid.

Davutoglu had said Wednesday that his country would not agree to a "framework that goes beyond this." But Turkey also said it would contribute four frigates and one submarine to the NATO naval force that patrolling off Libya's coast to enforce a U.N. arms embargo. Two frigates had reached the Libyan coast while two others were on their way.

In Brussels, NATO officials said the Military Committee - the alliance's highest military body - met Thursday morning in Brussels to review plans to enforce the no-fly zone in Libya. The decision-making North Atlantic Council, consisting of envoys from all 28 member nations, was meeting later Thursday to review them.

It has been meeting for six straight days, but a series of disagreements, including whether NATO should have overall political control over the operation and how aggressive rules of engagement should be, have so far blocked an agreement.

Separately, the 27 European Union heads of government began a two-day summit meeting, also in Brussels. Economic matters appear to be dominating the agenda, but Libya may also be discussed.

Thursday's vote in Turkey's Parliament authorizes the government and military to participate in operations in Libya up to one year, without specifying what kind.

NATO's top military commander, U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, met Turkish military leaders in Ankara on Thursday to discuss Turkey's concerns.


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