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France Says New Non-Nato Body To Lead Action


France has proposed that a new political steering committee outside Nato be responsible for overseeing military operations over Libya.

The proposal comes just a day after Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons that Nato would be in charge of enforcing UN Security Council resolution 1973.

But on Tuesday Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that it would only “help enforce” the no-fly zone, not lead it.

French Foreign Minister Alain Jupe said the new body would bring together foreign ministers of participating states – as well as the Arab League.

It is expected to meet in the coming days, either in Brussels, London or Paris.

Mr Jupe said “not all members of the military coalition are members of Nato and this is therefore not a Nato operation.”

The French announcement came after Mr Cameron’s spokesman hinted at a compromise over control, saying: “We the Government want to see the machinery of Nato used.”

Sky News defence correspondent Niall Paterson said: “Nato will coordinate what goes on, tactically, on the ground while there will be a supervening body above that.”

“They have devoted a lot of resources to getting the no-fly zone in place.”

Amid the ongoing allied tension over control structures for commanding the states involved in launching military action, Mr Cameron has sought to clarify the current status with the US president.

Libyan rebels gather around a burning T-72 tank belonging to forces of Gaddafi

Rebels gathered around a burning tank belonging to Gaddafi’s men

The Prime Minister spoke to President Obama this evening to take stock of the situation in Libya,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

“The leaders said that they were satisfied that substantial progress had been made so far in implementing UNSCR 1973, and that the international community’s action had helped save countless civilian lives in Benghazi.

Meanwhile, US joint task force commander Admiral Locklear said that military aircraft from Qatar, the first Arab state to help police the no-fly zone, were expected to be operational by the weekend.

Shortly after Admiral Locklear’s comments the first pair of Qatari Mirage fighters was spotted making its way towards an operating base in Greece.

The Government expects more Arab countries to back the military commitment to the no-fly zone in Libya, according to Sky sources.

Further involvement of Arab nations would boost the allied mission against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi after a third night of bombardments.

Foreign Secretary William Hague told the Cabinet efforts were continuing to “develop and maintain” the coalition, hinting at the expansion.

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