Nato to take charge of no-fly zone – but US role is unclear

Nato reached a partial agreement late last night to take over the command of the no-fly zone over Libya, but deep divisions within the alliance mean the US will have to remain in charge of air strikes on Colonel Gaddafi's ground forces.

The decision to run parallel campaigns, with Nato's military headquarters planning missions against Gaddafi's air forces, but a separate US chain of command dealing with ground attacks, will set alarm bells ringing among military planners, given the scope for confusion and duplication it brings.

"At this moment there will still be a coalition operation and a Nato operation," said Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. "We are considering whether Nato should take on the broader responsibility ... but that decision has not been made yet."

The complex deal appeared to be the only way to persuade Turkey to accept any Nato role. Ankara is opposed to Nato bombing ground targets, fearing civilian casualties in a fellow Muslim nation. In an effort to minimise the confusion, US Admiral Samuel J Locklear is expected to play a key operational role in both command chains.

Since air operations began on Saturday, the mission has been co-ordinated by US headquarters in Germany and Italy, but from the beginning the Obama administration had made clear they wanted the Europeans to take over after the first phase of the operation.

Washington is anxious to avoid being drawn into another prolonged conflict in the Muslim world and wanted to hand over command by early next week to Nato or to a combination of European allies. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Mr Rasmussen in insisting that Nato will continue to work on the military plans for the alliance's broader role to protect civilians against Libyan ground forces, even without the political agreement for them to do so.

"All 28 allies have also now authorised military authorities to develop an operations plan for Nato to take on the broader civilian protection mission. Nato is well-suited to co-ordinating this international effort," she said in Washington.

Opposition from France and Turkey to Nato taking command has led to a week of acrimonious wrangling at Nato's Brussels headquarters. Aside from the traditional French aversion to Nato, President Nicolas Sarkozy was concerned that putting the anti-Gaddafi operation under a Nato flag will alienate Arab opinion due to the alliance's role in Afghanistan.

One diplomat likened the poisonous atmosphere at allied headquarters to the deep splits in the alliance in 2003 when France and Germany opposed the invasion of Iraq. After meeting David Cameron and other European leaders at an EU summit in Brussels, Mr Sarkozy denied there were splits over the way ahead in Libya.

"Europe is totally united," he said. "Gaddafi cannot count on any divisions in Europe, nor in the coalition." He declined to talk about the Nato decision, beyond saying that the alliance military command would still need to be overseen by a political committee made up of members of the wider coalition.

"The technical, military co-ordination of the operation will be done by Nato, but the political co-ordination will be done by the coalition, that is an agreement between myself with Mr Obama and Mr Cameron," he claimed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent