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Libya interim leader asks NATO to stay till end of year

28 october 2011, 10:11
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National Transitional Council fighters gather around Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil (C) wrapped with the revolution flag. ©AFP
National Transitional Council fighters gather around Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil (C) wrapped with the revolution flag. ©AFP
Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil on Wednesday urged NATO to continue its Libya campaign until at least the end of 2011, at a conference of the North African nation's military allies in Doha, AFP reports.

"We hope (NATO) will continue its campaign until at least the end of this year to serve us and neighbouring countries," Abdel Jalil, head of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC), told the conference.

This request is aimed at "ensuring that no arms are infiltrated into those countries and to ensure the security of Libyans from some remnants of (slain despot Moamer) Khadafi's forces who have fled to nearby countries," he added.

The NTC is also seeking help from NATO in "developing Libya's defence and security systems, Abdel Jalil told the Conference of Friends Committee.

In Brussels, diplomats said that NATO had decided to delay a formal decision to end Libyan air operations until Friday after the NTC's request for an extension and a Russian demand for UN consultations.

In the wake of Kadhafi's capture and death last week, NATO's decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council (NAC), had been expected to formally agree Wednesday to set October 31 as the date to end the seven-month-old air war.

"The NAC will meet with partners this Friday to discuss the Libya mission and take a formal decision," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told AFP.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is continuing consultations with the United Nations and NTC leaders, Lungescu said.

Alliance ambassadors took a preliminary decision last week to end the mission at the end of the month after Kadhafi was killed by NTC forces and the fallen dictator's loyalists lost the battle for his hometown of Sirte.

Lungescu, however, said she was unaware of any formal requests from the NTC. "To my knowledge there isn't a formal request," she said.

Diplomats said another reason for the delay was that Russia wants NATO to wait for more consultations at the United Nations Security Council.

"Russia wants the Security Council to debate the situation in Libya before the NATO meeting," one diplomat said.

In Doha, Qatar Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani held a closed session of talks with Abdel Jalil and joint chiefs of staff of countries militarily involved in Libya, organisers said.

The meeting was aimed at "discussing the future of the international military operation in Libya ... and the assistance required" to the country, one organiser said.

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