NATO Ambassadors Discuss Possible Libya Review

BRUSSELS-- Members of NATO's governing body are discussing informally whether to direct alliance staff members to perform an internal legal review of its Libya operations to assist any outside investigation into civilian casualties, diplomats accredited to the organization say.

Two ambassadors accredited to NATO said that the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's top governing body, has not yet formally taken up the issue. But they said that they and other members of the council have been informally discussing with one another the possibility of launching an internal review of all incidents in which NATO airstrikes caused civilian casualties.

Officials from the NATO missions of three other countries also said they had heard of the discussions.

The council is comprised of the ambassadors from the 28 countries that are members of NATO. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss internal NATO matters.

NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said NATO is confident its forces carried out the campaign "in full compliance with international law."

"NATO has no intention of conducting a legal review of its air operations," she said.

"Furthermore, NATO has not received a request to help the (International Criminal Court) with any specific inquiries. If we receive a request for information, NATO is prepared to assist in any way it can."

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, said this month that any allegations of crimes committed by NATO in Libya would be examined "impartially and independently."

Moreno-Ocampo's statement does not necessarily mean he will open a formal investigation. Following findings of a U.N. Commission of Inquiry in Libya, due in March, he could decide there is no need for further investigation or ask judges for authorization to open a formal probe.

"We are not talking about any specific incident. We are saying, 'Yes, if there are allegations of crimes we will review that,"' Moreno-Ocampo told The Associated Press.

Following a U.N. resolution authorizing the protection of civilians, NATO led a campaign of airstrikes against the regime of then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from March through October. NATO leaders have hailed the precision with which the mission was carried out, citing the small number of civilian deaths caused by the bombing as evidence of its success.