London to host Libya conference

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An international conference is to be held in London next week to take stock of developments in Libya and discuss the command structure for the allied military operations.

The meeting, on Tuesday, will bring together representatives of countries involved in the UN-backed intervention and those situated in the region.

In a statement, Foreign Secretary William Hague said today the international community had to continue to take "united and coordinated action".

"At the conference we will discuss the situation in Libya with our allies and partners and take stock of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 (2011).

"We will consider the humanitarian needs of the Libyan people and identify ways to support the people of Libya in their aspirations for a better future.

"A wide and inclusive range of countries will be invited, particularly from the region.

"It is critical that the international community continues to take united and coordinated action in response to the unfolding crisis.

"The meeting will form a contact group of nations to take forward this work."

The meeting comes amid wrangling among Nato's 28 members about the overall responsibility for the mission.

So far the US has effectively commanded the operation to impose the no-fly zone, but Nato will take over shortly.

There are concerns among some members of the coalition, however, that the mission should be seen to be more broadly-based.

A compromise proposal being considered would see Nato guided by a political committee featuring foreign ministers from not just the West but also, crucially, the Arab world.

French foreign minister Alain Juppe stressed earlier that Tuesday's meeting would feature representatives of the African Union and the Arab League.

"We will now move into a second phase and Nato will act as the planning tool and operational conduct of the action," he said.

"It won't be Nato that will have the political steering of the operation."

A draft outline of the arrangement is being drawn up and could be agreed as early as this evening.

RAF commanders said today the allied forces had wiped out Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's air force.

Four days into the operation, the focus is now on enforcing the no-fly zone designed to protect Libyan civilians from air strikes.