No timetable to end Libya conflict, says US defence secretary

No timetable to end Libya conflict, says US defence secretary

By staff writers
24 Mar 2011

The US defence secretary has said that there is no timetable to end of the Western military campaign in Libya, as international concern grows.

The comments were made by Secretary of State Robert Gates during a visit to Cairo. He added that no-one was in a position to predict what would happen in the north African country.

He also rejected criticism about civilian causalities over the past few days, but indicated that US, UK and French aerial attacks might be scaled back shortly.

While defending military action from the West, Mr Gates pushed responsibility for the situation back onto the embattled Libyan people - and rejected the idea of international mediation.

"It seems to me that if there is a mediation to be done, if there is a role to be played, it is among the Libyans themselves. This matter at the end of the day is going to have to be settled by Libyans. It's their country," he declared.

The UK has claimed that Muammar Gaddafi's air force has been "totally disabled", but reports on the ground indicate that fighting continues on both sides - and that in some case the Libyan dictator has increased attacks against opposition forces since the armed attempt to enforce a no-fly zone began.

Media and local medical reports say that forces loyal to Gaddafi have killed at least 17 civilians, including five children, in Misrata over the past 24 hours - 90 in the last five days.

Residents say that in addition to hitting the city's air bases where government forces are based, water and electricity have been cut off.

Meanwhile, Germany has announced that it has pulled out of NATO operations in the Mediterranean and Italy says it will review the use of its bases for aerial attacks unless NATO leads the operations.

[Ekk/3]

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