Sarkozy reignites row over NATO military role in Libya

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, March 25, 2011.

From Ian Traynor, the GuardianNicolas Sarkozy has belittled Nato’s role in the military operations against Muammar Gaddafi, re-igniting the row over who replaces the Americans in charge of the campaign in Libya. …

The Nato decision is expected by Monday, before foreign ministers meet in London on Tuesday to discuss Libya. Senior officials were confident that the alliance would agree to assume command of all three elements of the campaign against Gaddafi – the air assaults, as well as the no-fly zone and arms embargo already under Nato command.

Turkey and France have been embroiled in a bitter row all week, with Ankara demanding that the Nato alliance, of which it is the member with the second biggest army after the US, takes over and Sarkozy opposed. …

The US, Britain, France, and Turkey agreed on Thursday to put all the Libya operations under a Nato umbrella, but the deal ran into problems when all 28 member countries had to approve the accord. Sarkozy restarted the row on Friday at the end of a European Union summit in Brussels. "It would be playing into the hands of Colonel Gaddafi to say Nato is taking over," he told a press conference.

"Nato cannot swallow the United Arab Emirates and Qatar," he added in reference to the two Arab countries joining the western air campaign in Libya. …

Sarkozy insisted that while Nato’s military machinery could be used, the political leadership would be vested in a committee from the 11 countries taking part. That would exclude Turkey. The Nato issue was a practical and not a political one, he said. "The political co-ordination is with the 11-member coalition. …"

The Nato operations are to be steered from its joint force command in Naples, while the nerve centre for the no-fly zone air sorties will be an air operations centre in Izmir in Turkey.  (photo: Getty)

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