NATO: Libya Needs More Than Military Action

BRUSSELS -- Military action alone will not solve the crisis in Libya, NATO's top official said Monday, adding that he hoped for a political solution soon to prevent terrorists from taking advantage of the country's instability.

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, however, that any cease-fire in the north African county must be credible and verifiable.

"I want to be clear. There can be no solely military solution to the crisis in Libya," he said. "NATO welcomes all contributions to the broad international effort to stop the violence against the civilian population."

Leaders from the African Union have been in Libya trying to negotiate a cease-fire between the regime of Muammar Qaddafi and rebels trying to oust him. Fogh Rasmussen said he had taken note of the effort but noted that cease-fires have been declared before in Libya without being implemented. He said NATO had been in touch constantly with the African Union and other regional and international organizations.

He said, though, that NATO would not cut back its operations to give space to the diplomatic initiative, but would base its operations solely on the need to protect civilians from attack.

Since Saturday morning, NATO aircraft have flown nearly 300 missions, destroying 49 tanks, nine armored personnel carriers, three anti-aircraft guns and four large ammunition bunkers. The vast majority of the strikes were near the Libyan cities of Misrata and Ajdabiya.

NATO, which took over command of the Libya operation from the U.S. on March 31, has been criticized by rebel leaders for mistakes and a perceived slowdown in the operations. But Fogh Rasmussen said that, in its 10 days commanding the operation, NATO had flown more than 1,500 sorties over Libya -- more than 150 a day -- and more than half of those were strike missions.

"It's a quite high operational tempo," he said.

Nevertheless, he said military operations were not enough in themselves.

"I hope to see a political solution to the problems in Libya sooner rather than later, because we know from experience that extremists and terrorists can take advantage of, and profit from, long-term instability," he said.

NATO foreign ministers will hold a meeting later this week in Berlin, and Fogh Rasmussen said that, in addition, several non-NATO countries had been invited to participate: Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Morocco, Sweden and Ukraine.

He also said he hoped that the European Union, rather than NATO, would take the lead in providing humanitarian assistance in the country. The EU has said that, if asked by the United Nations, it will launch a military operation to protect aid organizations and evacuate civilians.

In addition, Mahmoud Jebril, a leading member of the rebel's National Transitional Council, has been invited for an informal coffee Tuesday in Luxembourg with European Union foreign ministers, an EU spokesman said.