NATO Mission in Libya Extended

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 10:35 am (UTC-5)
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NATO says it is extending its military mission in Libya for 90 days, as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi refuses to step down despite a popular uprising,

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made the announcement Wednesday. He said the move is meant to send a clear message to the Gadhafi government that the pressure to oust him will continue.

During a news conference in Brussels, Rasmussen said the question is not if Mr. Gadhafi will leave, but when. He added that the Libyan leader's departure could take some time — or it could happen “tomorrow.”

The current NATO mission, comprised of airstrikes and enforcement of a no-fly zone, would have ended in late June. The extension carries it to September.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to the United Arab Emirates next week for a meeting about the Libyan conflict.

Earlier this month, the 22-nation Libyan Contact Group agreed to set up a fund to help provide Libyan rebels with food, medicine and military supplies in the areas under their control.

South African President Jacob Zuma, in his capacity as head of the African Union, met with Mr. Gadhafi Monday. He emerged from the meeting saying Mr. Gadhafi is not ready to leave. Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim denied reports that Mr. Zuma discussed an exit strategy with the Libyan leader.

The spokesman also said NATO airstrikes in Libya since March have killed 718 civilians and wounded more than 4,000. The casualty figures have not been independently verified. NATO says it has been striking Libyan military and command targets to protect Libyan civilians from assault by Mr. Gadhafi's forces.