Sarkozy defends Libya war in wake of criticism

President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday shrugged off criticism of the NATO-led campaign in Libya, saying the Western alliance should stay put until Muammar Gaddafi departs.

Brussels: President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday
shrugged off criticism of the NATO-led campaign in Libya,
saying the Western alliance should stay put until Muammar
Gaddafi departs.

As some alliance members pull out due to lack of
assets, and NATO faces flak over the first civilian casualties
in its three-month campaign, Sarkozy instead said at the close
of a European Union summit that the campaign was making steady
progress.

While sceptics had feared the campaign would get
bogged down in the face of a counter-offensive by Gaddafi
loyalists, "everyone can see Gaddafi`s forces are retreating
everywhere," he told a news conference.

"There is a general uprising of the population," he
added. "There is progress."

"We will continue until Gaddafi`s departure."
Meanwhile Italy`s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi,
whose foreign minister urged a halt in hostilities after NATO
strikes last weekend claimed civilian lives, echoed that the
campaign was squeezing Gaddafi`s grip on power.

"Gaddafi is increasingly isolated," Berlusconi said.
"He has been abandoned. No one can risk a forecast as
to when he will leave power."

Amid mounting questions as to how the campaign will
last and how much it might cost, Sarkozy said "the reason
we`re not moving faster is that we don`t want mistakes."

Just days after NATO admitted misfires which Tripoli
says caused several deaths, including toddlers, Sarkozy said:
"If we hadn`t intervened there would be tens of thousands of
deaths."

Italy`s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini this week
called for a suspension in the campaign in the latest sign of
dissent within NATO as Gaddafi shows no signs of quitting.

"We have seen the effects of the crisis and therefore
also of NATO action not only in eastern and southwestern
regions but also in Tripoli," Frattini told a parliamentary
committee meeting.

Bureau Report

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