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The Atlantic Alliance ready to spread its wings and its sails off Libya (Maj)

Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the press conference, March 10. (NATO)

After a first working session, and before the next, NATO Secretary General AF Rasmussen came to the press to discuss the decision to have reinforced “planning” for possible NATO operations, in four areas: maritime, humanitarian support, arms embargo, no fly zone.

A “ready to go” Alliance just in case…

For the Secretary General, the Alliance is in battle order, “Ready to Go” or as he explains it using a slogan that flaps in the wind, beautiful as the raising of a flag at dawn : “ NATO is united, NATO remains vigilant, NATO is ready to actr”. A slogan which, however, poorly masks certain divisions within the Alliance. The announcement in particular by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to move towards targeted air strikes, in agreement with the British, does not generate total support within the Alliance. Far from there. And the support of a military alliance for a military operation on Arab soil risks being more counterproductive than useful.

Three conditions for an Alliance operation

In all the options put on the table publicly, the NATO Secretary General also recalled the three conditions which must be met, beforehand, for any NATO operation: 1) demonstrate its added value to the efforts existing, 2) have a clear legal mandate, and 3) strong regional support.

The options on the table

Reinforced maritime means

First of all, the presence of NATO maritime assets will be increased in the central Mediterranean. It is the American admiral, Jim Stravridis, supreme commander of the allied forces, who takes command of these assets. The objective: to improve NATO’s situational awareness – “vital” in the current circumstances -, and participate in the “surveillance and monitoring, including with regard to the arms embargo” provided for by the first resolution (1970) of the UN Security Council on Libya.

New planning of means for humanitarian support and the arms embargo

The soldiers were urgently asked to carry out a “detailed planning” of the aid they could provide in humanitarian matters and, assuming a new UN Security Council resolution, more active measures to enforce the arms embargo.

No-fly zone

Finally, a “additional planning” is necessary on a possible no-fly zone, the works “initials” not having been sufficient. And with one reservation: “receive a clear mandate from the United Nations".

(update) Aerial surveillance already effective

Several NATO Awacs are already monitoring the area. The ambassadors of the 28 decided during their meeting last Monday (March 7) to extend this surveillance 24/24. Effective permanence by the end of the week, NATO is told. The planes will also move from their usual base in Geilenkirchen (Germany) to the NATO base in Italy, closer to the area. The planes do not need to fly over Libya, the Alliance is told, since they have a broad observation capacity of several hundred kilometers.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).