NATO struggles with how to proceed military operation against Libya

NATO Foreign Ministers are gathering in Berlin, with the Libyan conflict high on their agenda. Alliance members hope the two-day talks will narrow divisions over how to proceed with the current military operation.

Divisions remain at the midpoint of NATO's two-day meeting in Berlin.

The US and some other NATO members have rebuffed calls by France and the UK, to boost air strikes over Libya.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says it's vital to maintain unity against Muammar Gaddafi, but has given no indication Washington will re-engage in air strikes.

Meanwhile, Spain is adamant it has no plans to join the seven NATO countries now conducting air strikes. Italy adds that it would need to hear convincing arguments as well.

Despite these differences, Foreign Ministers from the alliance have endorsed a statement calling for the longtime Libyan leader to relinquish power. They've also reiterated a commitment to completing their mission, enforcing an arms embargo, and protecting civilians.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary-General said "We are committed to provide all necessary resources, and maximum operational flexibility, within our mandate. A high operational tempo against legitimate targets will be maintained, and we will exert this pressure as long as necessary."

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague says he hopes other nations will step up their efforts during the current crisis. He's also expressing satisfaction with the outcome of Thursday's talks.

William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary said "Group requiring Colonel Gaddafi to leave power, and setting up the same conditions for a ceasefire of stopping attacks on civilians, of withdrawing in a verifiable way from towns and cities where the civilians of Libya are under attack, and making sure that humanitarian needs can be met in an unhindered way. So this has been a very strong, very clear, and purposeful meeting at NATO today."

The main focus in Berlin is to define precisely what the alliance is trying to achieve in Libya. But additional efforts will still be required, to end the military stalemate there.

[Source: Xinhua, Beijing, 15Apr11]

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