Libya: Prolonged Nato operation 'may run into financial problems'

A high-ranking Nato official said on Tuesday said he believed in the success of the military coalition's operation in Libya, but cautioned that a drawn out mission could cause the alliance to run into financial difficulty.

“At this point the allied forces have enough means and I’m convinced that the operation in Libya will be successful,” General Stephane Abrial, Nato's Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, told a Nato conference in Belgrade.

“But if the operation is prolonged, of course the question of finances will become an issue,” the French general said.

He echoed a concern expressed buy the US Secretary of defence Robert Gates last week that only eight Nato's 28 members were actively taking part in the aerial operations against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Abrial opened the first Nato conference in Belgrade, attended by chiefs of general staff of member countries and participants in the Partnership for Peace program. The Partnership for Peace is a programme of practical bilateral cooperation between individual partner countries and Nato. A total of 56 countries, including Russia, are attending.

The meeting is held under tight security measures, amid opposition protests against Nato - which bombed Serbia for 78 days in 1999 - over what was called a “humanitarian catastrophe” and mass exodus of Albanians from breakaway Kosovo province, which declared independence in 2008.

Two thirds of Serbian citizens oppose the country’s membership in Nato and the pro-European government headed by president Boris Tadic has taken a neutral stand towards all military blocs.

But defence minister Dragan Sutanovac told the meeting Serbia was actively cooperating with Nato through the Partnership for Peace program and was ready to take part in peace-keeping missions under the umbrella of the United Nations.

“Fully aware of the emotions provoked by Nato in Serbia, we have assumed the responsibility to organize this meeting because we deeply believe that it is in the general interest and good for the future,” Sutanovac said.

[Source: ADN, Belgrade, 14Jun11]

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