NATO Will Reportedly Take Command of Military Operation in Libya

By The Associated Press

NATO will take command of the military operation in Libya, a Turkish foreign minister was quoted as saying Thursday, according to the Associated Press. This comes as explosions and anti-aircraft fire can be heard in the Libyan capital of Tripoli for a sixth-straight day.
Sources tell Fox News that a deal has not been reached yet, but the deal is still being discussed by ambassadors.
There was previous confusion over who would ultimately run the international operation against Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi.
A senior Pentagon official says that once the United States relinquishes command of the air campaign in Libya to NATO or others as early as this weekend, the U.S. probably will continue flying combat missions.
Navy Adm. William Gortney told reporters Thursday that the U.S. role predominantly would be in support of allied partners, with refueling missions, surveillance, reconnaissance and other noncombat flights. He also said that he expects U.S. planes would continue flying some strike missions.

Gortney said the U.S. military foresees a handoff of the lead command role by the weekend. He said details are being worked out.
French fighter jets destroyed a Libyan military plane on the ground after it just landed, amid allegations that forces loyal to Qaddafi violated the country’s U.N.-sanctioned no-fly zone.
The Libyan military trainer aircraft, a G-2/Galeb, was flying over Misrata prior to being destroyed by the French jets, a U.S. defense official told Fox News on Thursday. The incident is believed to be the first time a Libyan military plane was sent into Libyan airspace since the coalition bombing began, and the first time a military plane was shot down since the coalition began bombing Libya.
During a press conference in Paris, French military officials said its fighter jets attacked an air base 150 miles inland from the Mediterranean coast overnight. The coalition airstrikes against Libya had been a “success,” Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Thursday.
A G-2/Galeb, according to The Encyclopedia of Modern Warplanes and other aviation sources, is a two-seat, single-engine ground-attack and reconnaissance aircraft developed in Yugoslavia. The plane, which can be equipped with light bombs and rockets, is capable of reaching a maximum speed of 440 knots, roughly the same speed as a passenger jet. Production began in 1964 and ceased in 1985.
Pro-Qaddafi troops also continued barraging the western city of Misrata on Thursday but were forced to roll back their tanks periodically amid coalition airstrikes. A rebel spokesman tells Reuters that 30 snipers were killed by Libyan rebels, according to Reuters.
The spokesman also said that Libyan government warships and boats are gone from Misrata’s port.
In Tripoli, Libyan deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim said that the “military compound at Juffra” was among the targets hit before dawn. Juffra is one of at least two air bases deep in Libya’s interior, on main routes that lead from neighboring countries in the Sahara region that have been suppliers of arms and fighters for the Qaddafi regime.
Libyan state television on Thursday showed blackened and mangled bodies that it said were victims of airstrikes in the capital.
A U.S. intelligence report on March 21, the day after coalition missiles attacked Qaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in the capitol, said that a senior Qaddafi aide was told to take bodies from a morgue and place them at the scene of the bomb damage, to be displayed for visiting journalists.
On Wednesday, NATO ships began patrolling off Libya’s coast as airstrikes, missiles and rebels forced Qaddafi’s tanks to roll back from two key western cities, including one that was the hometown of army officers who tried to overthrow him in 1993.
Coalition aircraft hit a fuel depot in Tripoli, a senior government official told reporters in a late-night news conference. Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim at first denied reports that Qaddafi’s compound in Tripoli was hit earlier, then bactracked and said he had no information about that. Other targets Wednesday were near Benghazi and Misrata, he said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has acknowledged there is no clear end to the international military enforcement of the no-fly zone over Libya, but President Barack Obama said it “absolutely” will not lead to a U.S. land invasion.
A U.S. official said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to London next week for an international conference to coordinate the strategy and military operation against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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