NATO expected to confirm end to Libya mission

BRUSSELS Thu Oct 27, 2011 10:16am EDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO is expected to confirm a decision to end its Libya mission next week, but member states of the alliance are free to decide on whether to give further security aid to Tripoli individually, a NATO official said.

Ambassadors from the 28 NATO states will meet in Brussels on Friday to formalize a preliminary decision reached a week ago to end the mission on October 31.

"All indications are they will stick to their original decision," a NATO official said. "Therefore NATO per se is not going to have any involvement after October 31 and there will no longer be a NATO operation over Libya."

The U.N. Security Council was due to meet on Thursday at 1400 GMT to end the mandate that backed the 7-month-old NATO military operation that led to the ouster and death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

This is despite a request from Libya's interim government for the Security Council to wait for it to decide whether it wants NATO to help it secure its borders.

NATO officials and diplomats said it was possible that warships from NATO nations currently enforcing a U.N. arms embargo under NATO command might continue in that mission if the United Nations called for it to be maintained.

However they would most likely do so outside NATO command.

"I have not heard that's something we are thinking about," a NATO official said. "This may be something for allies and partners who wish to participate in a follow on mission outside the NATO command and control structure.

The official pointed to a comments from Qatar's top general, who said on Wednesday that Western countries had proposed setting up a new alliance headed by Qatar to support Libya after NATO ends its mission.

While Libya's interim rulers have called for support in training and logistics, NATO says it has no intention to become involved in any role that would involved deploying personnel on the ground in Libya.

But it has said it is willing to consider long-term security cooperation with Libya under its Mediterranean dialogue program.

NATO allies have been keen to see a quick conclusion to a costly effort that has involved more than 26,000 air sorties and round-the-clock naval patrols at a time when budgets are under severe strain due to the global economic crisis.

(Additional reporting by Justyna Pawlak; editing by Andrew Roche)

FILED UNDER: