NATO chief hails end of Libya mission

NATO`s top official on Monday praised the alliance`s seven-month sea and air campaign in Libya.

Tripoli: NATO`s top official on Monday praised the alliance`s seven-month sea and air campaign in Libya,
a key in ousting long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi, saying the
mission`s end marks the close of a "successful chapter in
NATO`s history".

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who was making
his first visit to Tripoli since the end of the civil war less
than two weeks ago, also congratulated the country`s
revolutionaries on their victory and said they "helped change
the region."

"You acted to change your history and your destiny, we
acted to protect you," Fogh Rasmussen said at a joint news
conference with Libya`s interim leader, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil.
"Together we succeeded: Libya is finally free."

NATO operations in the country officially end at midnight
today Libyan time. Last week, the UN Security
Council, which authorised the mission in March, ordered an end
to all military action in Libya.

Over the past seven months, allied air forces carried out
9,600 strike sorties, destroying about 5,900 military targets.
An average of 15 warships were on station at all times off the
Libyan coast to enforce an arms embargo.

"At midnight tonight, a successful chapter in NATO`s
history is coming to an end, but you have already started
writing a new chapter in the history of Libya, a new Libya
based on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of
law," Fogh Rasmussen said. "We know it`s not easy. We know the
challenges, and if you ask us for help in areas where we can
help, we will."

NATO persevered during a months-long period of stalemate
on the battlefield, when it appeared that Libya could become
an Afghanistan-like quagmire. With the alliance airstrikes
helping open the way, revolutionary forces eventually captured
Tripoli in late August, and brought an end to the war with the
capture and death of Gaddafi on October 20.

Abdul-Jalil, who is the head of Libya`s National
Transitional Council, thanked Fogh Rasmussen for the
alliance`s support.

"NATO operations were successful, with the grace of God
and the determination of fighters," he said. "The strikes were
accurate so that civilians were not impacted, the people of
Libya can testify to this."

The end of the NATO mission clears the way for passenger
flights to and from Libya. Transportation Minister Anwar
al-Fitouri said that Libya`s four airports would resume
operations tomorrow.

Bureau Report

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