NATO mission in Libya to end on October 31

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NATO plans to end its seven-month air and sea campaign in Libya at the end of October, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said late on Friday, the day after the death of Muammar Gaddafi.
Rasmussen said a meeting of NATO ambassadors in Brussels set October 31 as a provisional date to end the mission and a formal decision would be made next week. He said the mission would be wound down in the period until the end of the month. NATO officials said the formal decision would be based on the perception of the security situation after the transitional authorities declared the formal liberation of Libya, something they say they plan to do on Sunday. Rasmussen said NATO had no intention to keep forces in the Libyan area after the end of the month.
“It is our intention to close the operation. It will be a clear-cut termination of our operation,” he said. “We agreed that our operations are very close to completion and we have taken a preliminary decision to end Operation Unified Protector on October 31,” Rasmussen told a news conference.
“Until then, NATO will monitor the situation and retain the capacity to respond to threats to civilians, if needed.”
Rasmussen said NATO had fulfilled its United Nations mandate to protect civilians in Libya with “remarkable success” and called it “a special moment in history.”
“We mounted a complex operation with unprecedented speed and conducted it with the greatest of care,” he said. “I’m very proud of what we have achieved.”
“Now is the time for the Libyan people to take their destiny fully into their own hands to build a new, inclusive Libya based on democracy and reconciliation human rights and the rule of law.” Asked if he supported an investigation into the manner of Gaddafi’s death, given that he had been captured alive, Rasmussen said this was a matter for the Libyan authorities, but he would expect them to live up fully to principles of respect for the rule of law and human rights, including transparency.
He said NATO had not deliberately targeted Gaddafi and that he had no knowledge of the whereabouts of his son Saif al-Islam. While the operation represents a success for NATO that has distracted attention from its long and troubled mission in Afghanistan, allies have been keen to see a quick conclusion to a costly effort that has involved more than 26,000 air sorties and round-the-clock naval patrols at a time when defence budgets are under severe strain due to the global economic crisis.

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