Tag Archive: NATO


Libya Leader Wants NATO Presence Through 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/27/world/middleeast/libya-leader-wants-nato-presence-through-2011.html

Libya’s interim leader said on Wednesday that NATO should extend its air patrols over the country through the end of 2011 despite the death and burial of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and the formal declaration that the country’s violent revolution was over.       The assertion by the interim leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, chairman of the Transitional National Council, appeared to be a tacit admission that armed remnants of Colonel Qaddafi’s defeated disciples could possibly regroup and cause new trouble for Libya in the months ahead.

Mr. Jalil spoke as NATO was preparing within days to formally end its operations in Libya, which have been credited with helping anti-Qaddafi fighters topple Colonel Qaddafi’s regime in an eight-month conflict that was the most violent of the Arab Spring uprisings.

NATO warplanes also helped flush out Colonel Qaddafi and his subordinates from their final hideaway last Thursday in his hometown, Surt, where he and dozens, if not hundreds, of loyalists were killed, ending his 42-year tenure as one of the Arab world’s most ruthless dictators.

Mr. Abdel-Jalil formally declared the conflict over on Sunday, and Colonel Qaddafi, along with one of his sons and former defense minister, were buried in a secret location on Tuesday.

“We have asked NATO to stay until the end of the year to protect citizens from Qaddafi loyalists,” Mr. Jalil said at a news conference in Doha, Qatar, where he was attending a meeting of other countries that have assisted the anti-Qaddafi forces in the conflict.

Asserting that he was also concerned about efforts by remaining supporters of Colonel Qaddafi to take refuge abroad, Mr. Abdel-Jalil said: “We seek technical support for training for our forces on the ground. We hope NATO can sustain its operations over Libya, but if they do not we are still thankful.”

NATO ministers last week tentatively set Oct. 31 as the end of their military operations in Libya, which were conducted under the auspices of a Security Council resolution to protect Libyan civilians from reprisals by Colonel Qaddafi’s military during the conflict.

The NATO ministers had been scheduled to meet on Wednesday in Brussels to finalize the termination date but abruptly postponed that meeting to Friday, presumably to weigh Mr. Abdel-Jalil’s request for an extension.

Qatar, one of the first Arab countries to recognize the coalition of anti-Qaddafi rebels that toppled Colonel Qaddafi’s regime, disclosed for the first time on Wednesday that it had deployed hundreds of soldiers on the ground in Libya to help them.

The disclosure came in an interview conducted by Agence France-Presse with Qatar’s military chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Hamad bin Ali al-Atiya, at the Doha meeting. He also was quoted as saying that the Qataris had been “running the training and communication operations” of the anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya.

Previously, Qatar had said only that it was providing some air support, water, weapons and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of other aid to the rebels battling Colonel Qaddafi’s military.

There were unconfirmed reports from Libya that Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, a son of Colonel Qaddafi who was once considered his heir apparent and is still on the run, was seeking to turn himself in at an undisclosed location. But a person close to the Qaddafi family said that he had no knowledge of Seif al Islam’s whereabouts and that his surrender at this time was extremely unlikely. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to prevent harassment from Qaddafi opponents.

Reporting was contributed by Adam Nossiter and David D. Kirkpatrick in Tripoli, Libya.

Clashes resume between Egyptian Christians, police

CAIRO (AP) — Security officials say clashes between Christian protesters and Egyptian security forces have resumed, with hundreds pelting the police with rocks outside a central Cairo hospital.

 

At least 24 people were killed when Christians, angered by a recent church attack, clashed Sunday night with Muslims and security forces outside the state television building in central Cairo.

 

The officials say Monday’s clashes took place outside a Cairo hospital where bodies of Christian victims were kept.

 

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, had no word on casualties.

 

The latest violence comes hours before funeral services for the victims were to be held at the Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo.

 

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

 

CAIRO (AP) — Deadly clashes between angry Christians, Muslims and security forces have dealt a serious setback to Egypt’s transition to civilian rule, the country’s prime minister said Monday, hours after 24 people were killed in the worst violence since the February ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

 

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said the violence, which also left 272 wounded, was part of a “dirty conspiracy” and called on Egyptians to unite in the face of what he called meddling by foreign and domestic hands in their nation’s affairs.

 

“These events have taken us back several steps,” Sharaf said in a televised address. “Instead of moving forward to build a modern state on democratic principles, we are back to seeking stability and searching for hidden hands — domestic and foreign — that meddle with the country’s security and safety.”

 

A military council led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, defense minister of 20 years under the former regime, took over after an 18-day popular uprising forced Mubarak to step down. The military initially pledged to hand back power to a civilian administration in six months, but that deadline has gone by, with parliamentary elections now scheduled to start in late November. According to a timetable floated by the generals, presidential elections could be held late next year.

 

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people, blame the country’s ruling military council for being too lenient on those behind a spate of anti-Christian attacks since Mubarak’s ouster. As Egypt undergoes a chaotic power transition and security vacuum in the wake of the uprising, the Coptic Christian minority is particularly worried about the show of force by ultraconservative Islamists.

 

Sunday’s violence will likely prompt the military to further tighten its grip on power. Already, it said it had no intention to lift the widely hated emergency laws in place since Mubarak first took office in 1981. Tension also has been growing between the military and the youth groups that engineered the uprising, with activists blaming the generals for mishandling the transition period, human rights violations and driving a wedge between them and ordinary Egyptians.

 

The European Union condemned the violence, with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton saying it was for Egypt “to protect your people, whoever they are, wherever they come from or whatever belief or faith they have.”

 

Egypt’s official news agency, meanwhile, reported that dozens of “instigators of chaos” have been arrested following Sunday’s violence, sparked by a recent attack on a church in southern Egypt.

 

The MENA news agency did not say whether those arrested were Christians or Muslims, but security officials said most of the 24 killed were Christians and that they may have included one or two Muslims. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

 

Egypt’s state television said authorities on Monday stepped up security at vital installations in anticipation of renewed unrest, deploying additional troops outside parliament and the Cabinet. Riot police were also stationed outside the Coptic hospital where most of the victims’ bodies are kept. Funeral services are due in the afternoon at the main Coptic Cathedral in Cairo.

 

The rioting in downtown Cairo had lasted until late into the night, bringing out more than 1,000 security forces and armored vehicles to defend the Nile-side state television building where the trouble began.

 

The clashes spread from outside the TV building to nearby Tahrir Square, drawing thousands of people to the vast plaza that served as the epicenter of the protests that ousted Mubarak. On Sunday night, they battled each other with rocks and firebombs, some tearing up pavement for ammunition and others collecting stones in boxes.

 

The clashes did not appear to be exclusively sectarian.

 

State TV, which has increasingly become loyal to the military, appealed on “honorable” Egyptians to protect the army against attacks as news spread of clashes between the Christian protesters and the troops outside the TV building. Soon afterward, bands of young men armed with sticks, rocks, swords and firebombs began to roam central Cairo, attacking Christians. Troops and riot police did not intervene to stop the attacks on Christians.

 

Throughout the night, the station cast the Christian protesters as a violent mob attacking the army and public property. At one point, Information Minister Osama Heikal went on the air to deny that the station’s coverage had a sectarian slant, but acknowledged that its presenters acted “emotionally.”

 

At one point, an armored army van sped into the crowd, striking several protesters and throwing some into the air. Protesters retaliated by setting fire to military vehicles, a bus and private cars, sending flames rising into the night sky.

 

The Christian protesters said their demonstration began as a peaceful attempt to sit in at the TV building. Then, the protesters said, they came under attack by thugs in plainclothes who rained stones down on them and fired pellets.

 

“The protest was peaceful. We wanted to hold a sit-in, as usual,” said Essam Khalili, a protester wearing a white shirt with a cross on it. “Thugs attacked us and a military vehicle jumped over a sidewalk and ran over at least 10 people. I saw them.”

 

Khalili said protesters set fire to army vehicles when they saw them hitting the protesters.

 

Ahmed Yahia, a Muslim resident who lives near the TV building, said he saw the military vehicle plow into protesters. “I saw a man’s head split into two halves and a second body flattened when the armored vehicle ran over it. When some Muslims saw the blood they joined the Christians against the army,” he said.

 

Television footage showed the military vehicle slamming into the crowd. Coptic protesters were shown attacking a soldier, while a priest tried to protect him.

 

In the past weeks, riots have broken out at two churches in southern Egypt, prompted by Muslim crowds angry over church construction. One riot broke out near the city of Aswan, even after church officials agreed to a demand by ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis that a cross and bells be removed from the building.

 

Aswan’s governor, Gen. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, further raised tensions by suggesting to the media that the church construction was illegal.

 

Protesters said the Copts are demanding the ouster of the governor, reconstruction of the church, compensation for people whose houses were set on fire and prosecution of those behind the riots and attacks on the church.

http://news.yahoo.com/clashes-resume-between-egyptian-christians-police-101822266.html

 

 

Gadhafi’s regime teeters on collapse in Libya

Libyan rebel fighters embrace at the former female military base in Tripoli, Libya, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. Libyan rebels claimed to be in control of most of the Libyan capital on Monday after their lightning advance on Tripoli heralded the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's nearly 42-year regime, but scattered battles erupted and the mercurial leader's whereabouts remained unknown. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)People celebrate the capture in Tripoli of Moammar Gadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, at the rebel-held town of Benghazi, Libya, early Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. Libyan rebels raced into Tripoli Sunday and met little resistance as Gadhafi's defenders melted away and his 42-year rule rapidly crumbled. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)

Libyan rebel fighters fire towards forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi during fierce gunfire in downtown Tripoli, Libya, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. World leaders said Monday the end is near for Moammar Gadhafi's regime and began planning for Libya's future without the man who has held power there for 42 years. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

http://news.yahoo.com/gadhafis-regime-teeters-collapse-libya-205608125.html

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was nowhere to be found Monday as his 42-year rule teetered on the brink of collapse. Months of NATO airstrikes have left his Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli largely demolished. Most of his security forces fled or surrendered when rebel forces rolled into the capital Sunday night and took control of most of the city. And three of his sons are under arrest.

 

A mood of joy mixed with trepidation settled over the capital, with the rebels still fighting pockets of fierce resistance from regime loyalists firing mortars and anti-aircraft guns. Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Rahman, who was in Tripoli, said the “danger is still there” as long as Gadhafi remains on the run.

“The real moment of victory is when Gadhafi is captured,” Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, head of the rebel National Transitional Council, told a news conference in the opposition’s de facto capital of Benghazi, hundreds of miles east of Tripoli. He said the rebels have no idea where Gadhafi is and whether he is even in Tripoli. An Obama administration official said the U.S. had no indication that Gadhafi had left Libya.

President Barack Obama said the situation in Libya reached a tipping point in recent days after a five month NATO-led bombing campaign. However, he acknowledged that the situation remained fluid and that elements of the regime remained a threat.

The Obama administration official said U.S. officials and NATO partners had not been in contact with Gadhafi during the siege on Tripoli. However, the official said American and NATO representatives, as well as Libyan rebels, had all been in contact with people around Gadhafi, mostly those looking for a way out.

NATO vowed to keep up its air campaign until all pro-Gadhafi forces surrender or return to their barracks. The alliance’s warplanes have hit at least 40 targets in and around Tripoli in the past two days — the highest number on a single geographic location since the bombing started in March, NATO said.

A day after the rebels rode into the city of 2 million, the situation remained volatile. Even though rebels claimed they were in control of most of Tripoli, they still appeared to be on the defensive, ducking for cover during frequent clashes with regime fighters. Throughout the day, the rebels sent reinforcements to the city from the north, south and southeast, and a rebel field commander said more than 4,000 fighters were part of the final push to bring down the regime.

The Obama administration official said the U.S. believes 90 percent of the capital is under rebel control, while regime loyalists still control Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte and the southern city of Sabha.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publically.

Intense gunbattles erupted throughout the day and city was too unstable for any mass celebrations in the streets.

Clashes broke out early in the day at Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound when government tanks emerged from the complex and opened fire at rebels trying to get in, according to the rebel spokesman Abdel-Rahman and a neighbor.

Moammar al-Warfali, whose family home is next to the Gadhafi compound, said there appeared to be only a few tanks belonging to the remaining Gadhafi forces who have not fled or surrendered.

“When I climb the stairs and look from the roof, I see nothing at Bab al-Aziziyah. It is totally deserted except for the house which was raided by U.S. in 1986. Nothing else is there. Gadhafi can’t be there,” he said. “NATO has demolished it all and nothing remained.”

But Abdel-Rahman said Gadhafi still has forces to be reckoned with.

“We know that until now, Tripoli is encircled by Gadhafi brigades positioned at the outskirts of the capital, in camps, such as al-Yarmouk in the south of Tripoli. They can be in the middle of the city in half an hour.”

 

Turnout key as Moroccans vote on king’s reforms

Thousands of people gather as they take part in a rally to support the government's project for constitutional reform during a peaceful protest in Casablancahttp://news.yahoo.com/turnout-key-moroccans-vote-kings-reforms-091824853.html

RABAT (Reuters) – Moroccans voted on Friday in a referendum on a revised constitution offered by King Mohammed to placate “Arab Spring” street protesters and the “yes” camp was tipped to win despite boycott calls by opponents.

The new charter explicitly grants the government executive powers, but retains the king at the helm of the army, religious authorities and the judiciary and still allows him to dissolve parliament, though not unilaterally as is the case now.

That falls far short of the demands of the “February 20” protest movement, which wants a parliamentary monarchy where the king’s powers would be kept in check by elected lawmakers.

However the movement so far has not attracted the mass support of popular uprisings that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. It urged Moroccans to boycott the vote and said a low turnout would back their calls for more radical reforms.

Turnout stood at 26 percent by midday local time (1100 GMT), according to the interior ministry. Preliminary results were due to be announced late on Friday, a ministry spokesman said.

“I voted ‘yes’ because we have to obey the Commander of the Faithful,” retired agriculture ministry engineer Samira Denguir said in the middle-class Hassan suburb of the capital Rabat, referring to the king’s religious role.

“A large ‘yes’ vote with a high abstention rate or spoiled ballots is not a great result, and the monarchy, Makhzen and (political) parties know it,” said Lise Storm, senior lecturer in Middle East politics at the University of Exeter in England.

The Makhzen is the royal court seen by many Moroccans as a largely unaccountable and shadowy political and business elite.

The 47-year-old ruler has had some success in repairing the legacy of human right abuses, high illiteracy and poverty he inherited after his late father’s 38-year rule ended in 1999.

WESTERN ALLY

A staunch Western ally, Morocco under King Mohammed has stepped up cooperation against terrorism and illegal migration, notably with the European Union which is keen to avoid the spread of Islamic militancy along its southern shores.

But while his personal popularity is expected to swing many voters in favor of the reforms, the margin of victory could be eroded by resentment at wide disparities between rich and poor, and a sense of alienation from the political elite.

“I’m not voting because I couldn’t get my voter card and to be totally honest I couldn’t care less. If they really mean good they would have done it years ago,” said market trader Younes Driouki, 29, heading to the beach with his surfboard.

Results of an online poll conducted by independent portal Lakome.com showed 52 percent of 51,200 participants saying they would boycott the referendum. The vast bulk of the rest said they would vote in favor, but such a low turnout would raise questions about the credibility of the exercise.

Some 13 million people registered to vote — more than 6 million fewer than the 19.4 million Moroccans over 19 years old in a 2009 census. Moroccans above 18 are eligible to vote.

Hamid Benchrifa, an analyst from the Social Development Agency, said the disparity may be due either to voters not updating their identity cards after changing address, or a simple lack of interest in politics.

The February 20 movement has brought together Islamists bent on setting up an Islamic caliphate and secular left-wingers focusing on what they see as rising levels of corruption.

They say they will continue their common fight for a system of parliamentary monarchy and more curbs on the king’s powers.

(Editing by Mark John and Mark Heinrich)

Judges order arrest of Gadhafi, son for slayings

Judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng is seen in the courtroom in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday June 27, 2011. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, his son and his intelligence chief for crimes against humanity in the early days of their struggle to cling to power. (AP Photo/Robert Vos, Pool)

Libyan chant slogans against Moammar Gadhafi during a demonstration in the rebel-held capital Benghazi, Libya, Saturday, June 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)http://beta.news.yahoo.com/judges-order-arrest-gadhafi-son-slayings-122452359.html

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants Monday for Moammar Gadhafi, his son Seif, and his intelligence chief for crimes against humanity in the Libyan leader’s four-month battle to cling to power. 

Judges announced that the three men are wanted for orchestrating the killing, injuring, arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of civilians during the first 12 days of an uprising to topple Gadhafi from power, and for trying to cover up the alleged crimes.

The warrants turn Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi into internationally wanted suspects, potentially complicating efforts to mediate an end to more than four months of intense fighting in the North African nation.

Presiding judge Sanji Monageng of Botswana said Monday there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that Gadhafi and his son are both “criminally responsible as indirect co-perpetrators” for the murder and persecution of civilians.

She called Gadhafi the “undisputed leader of Libya” who had “absolute, ultimate and unquestioned control” over his country’s military and security forces.

Libyan officials rejected the court’s authority even before the decision was read in a Hague courtroom, claiming the court had unfairly targeted Africans while ignoring what they called crimes committed by NATO in Afghanistan, Iraq “and in Libya now.”

“The ICC has no legitimacy whatsoever. We will deal with it. … All of its activities are directed at African leaders,” government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters Sunday.

Monageng said evidence presented by prosecutors showed that following popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Gadhafi and his inner circle plotted a “state policy … aimed at deterring and quelling by any means — including by the use of lethal force — the demonstrations by civilians against the regime.”

She said it was impossible to put an exact number on the casualties, but said Gadhafi’s security forces likely “killed and injured as well as arrested and imprisoned hundreds of civilians.”

Prosecutors at the court said the three suspects should be arrested quickly “to prevent them covering up ongoing crimes and committing new crimes.”

“This is the only way to protect civilians in Libya,” said the statement from the office of Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

Shortly before the court announced the warrants, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated his call for Gadhafi to step down.

“After 41 years of dictatorship, it is perhaps time to stop, for him to leave power,” he told a news conference in Paris. “Mr. Gadhafi knows perfectly well what he must do for peace to return. It only depends on him.”

In Tripoli, two loud explosions shook the area near Gadhafi’s compound Monday. NATO jets were heard over the Libyan capital minutes after the blasts as sirens from emergency vehicles blared in the streets.

The thunderous late-morning blasts were felt at a hotel where foreign journalists stay in Tripoli.

Smoke rose from the area near Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya complex, where Libyans hold daily rallies in support of the government. Gadhafi is not believed to be staying in the compound.

It wasn’t immediately clear what was hit or if there were civilian casualties.

A coalition including France, Britain and the United States began striking Gadhafi’s forces under a United Nations resolution to protect civilians on March 19. NATO assumed control of the air campaign over Libya on March 31 and is joined by a number of Arab allies.

___

Adam Schreck in Tripoli, Libya contributed to this report

NATO targets Tripoli with daytime raid

http://beta.news.yahoo.com/nato-targets-tripoli-daytime-raid-103459345.html

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — NATO warplanes dashed into the Libyan capital Tripoli at midday Friday, pounding a target in the south of the city and sending a thick cloud of black smoke rising high into the air.

A series of explosions rumbled across other parts of the city as fighter jets could by heard flying overhead. Fire engines raced through the streets, sirens blaring.

It wasn’t clear what was hit or whether there were casualties. Friday is the main day of rest in Libya, with many people off work.

NATO has been ramping up the pressure on Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. Though most airstrikes happen under cover of darkness, daytime raids have grown more frequent.

Friday’s raids follow a barrage that struck multiple targets late Thursday night.

The fresh strikes blasted the capital as renewed diplomatic efforts to halt Libya’s civil war appeared to be gaining momentum, though there are no signs a breakthrough is imminent.

On Thursday, Russia’s envoy to Libya met with senior government leaders in Tripoli, but not Gadhafi himself, in an effort to stop the fighting.

Last week, the envoy Mikhail Margelov visited the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi and said that Gadhafi has lost his legitimacy. However, the envoy also said NATO airstrikes are not a solution to Libya’s violent stalemate.

Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi said the Libyan government has held a number of “preliminary meetings” with officials based in the eastern rebel-held city of Benghazi. He said the talks took place abroad, including in Egypt, Tunisia and Norway, but he did not provide specifics.

A coalition including France, Britain and the United States launched the first strikes against Gadhafi’s forces under a United Nations resolution to protect civilians on March 19. NATO assumed control of the air campaign over Libya on March 31. It’s joined by a number of Arab allies.

Speaking by video link from Naples, NATO Wing Commander Mike Bracken said Gadhafi’s future at the helm of Libya was a what he called a “political decision.” Bracken was speaking to reporters in Brussels, NATO headquarters.

Later, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said there were no indications Gadhafi would stop attacking the opposition.

“It is hard to imagine the end to attacks on civilians while the pro-Gadhafi regime is still in power,” Lungescu said in Brussels. “It is unfortunately still the case that pro-Gadhafi forces continue to show shocking determination to harm the Libyan people.”

What started as a peaceful uprising inside Libya against Gadhafi has grown into a civil war, with rebels now holding a third of the country in the east and pockets in the west.

Libya’s rebels mark Feb. 17 — four months ago Friday — as the start of their revolution against Gadhafi’s more than four-decade rule.

It was on that date that protesters emboldened by Arab uprisings in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt took to the streets in a number of Libyan cities. At least 20 people were reported killed in a crackdown by state security forces.

Fighting between government forces and the rebels had reached a stalemate until last week when NATO launched the heaviest bombardment of Gadhafi forces since the alliance took control of the skies over Libya.

___

AP writer Don Melvin contributed from Brussels.

 

White House defends legality of Libya mission

Jay Carneyhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110615/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_us_libya

By JULIE PACE, Associated Press        Julie Pace, Associated Press–    10 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The White House says the cost of U.S. military involvement and humanitarian assistance in Libya is about $800 million as of early June.

Officials estimate the U.S. will spend about $1.1 billion in Libya through the beginning of September.

The administration included those cost estimates in a report on the Libya mission sent to Congress on Wednesday. The report is in response to a House resolution that chastised Obama for failing to provide Congress enough information on the scope and cost of U.S. military campaign in Libya.

The White House also says in the report that President Barack Obama has the authority to continue U.S. military involvement in Libya even without authorization from Congress.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Pushing back against congressional criticism, the White House said Wednesday that President Barack Obama has the authority to continue U.S. military action in Libya even without authorization from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

In a detailed, 30-page report being sent to Congress, the administration argues that the U.S. has a limited, supporting role in the NATO-led bombing campaign in Libya. Because U.S. forces are not engaged in sustained fighting and there are no troops on the ground there, the White House says the president is within his constitutional rights to direct the mission on his own.

The administration’s defense of the Libya mission comes in response to a non-binding House resolution passed earlier this month that chastised Obama for failing to provide a “compelling rationale” for U.S. involvement in Libya.

The resolution gave the administration until Friday to respond to a series of questions on the mission, including the scope of U.S. military activity, the cost of the mission, and its impact on other U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It remained to be seen whether the administration’s reasoning would be enough to quell congressional criticism. House and Senate leaders grew frustrated Wednesday when the White House briefed reporters on the report well before sending it to Congress.

Obama did not seek congressional consent before ordering U.S. airstrikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces nearly three months ago. Despite that, the White House has maintained that the president is not in violation of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which prohibits the military from being involved in actions for more than 60 days without congressional authorization, plus a 30-day extension.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent Obama a letter this week stating that the 90-day window runs out on Sunday.

However, senior administration officials previewing the report Wednesday said U.S. forces are not involved in the kind of “hostilities” for which the War Powers Resolution says the commander in chief must get congressional approval.

While the U.S. led the initial airstrikes on Libya, NATO forces have since taken over the mission, which is in its third month. The U.S still plays a significant support role that includes aerial refueling of warplanes and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance work.

The White House and Capitol Hill have been at odds throughout much of the three-month campaign over whether the administration has fully consulted Congress on the mission. Congressional leaders and key committee members were only summoned to the White House the day before Obama ordered air strikes against Gadhafi’s forces. Several lawmakers attended in person, others by phone as Congress had just begun a weeklong break.

Obama aides insist they have briefed Congress extensively throughout, citing more than 30 briefings with lawmakers and their staff, and 10 hearings where administration officials have testified on Libya.

The White House has called the House resolution chiding Obama, as well as a similar resolution in the Senate, unhelpful and unnecessary. The administration much prefers a resolution sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., that would signal support for the Libya operation.

However, the fate of that measure is in limbo as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed plans to discuss so lawmakers could review the House report.

A bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers also sued Obama on Wednesday for taking military action against Libya without war authorization from Congress. The lawmakers said Obama violated the Constitution in bypassing Congress and using international organizations like the United Nations and NATO to authorize military force.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president expects congressional support for the Libya campaign will continue. With Gadhafi under pressure to leave power, he said now is not the time to send “mixed messages” about U.S. commitment to the campaign.

___

Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

 

NATO airstrike hits near Gadhafi complex

In this image taken from TV, showing rebel forces on the front line as they repel government troops, Sunday June 12, 2011, in Dafniya, Libya. as fighthttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110614/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By ADAM SCHRECK and HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press        Adam Schreck And Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press–    16 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – A NATO airstrike hit an area near Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s compound in the capital again Tuesday, as military leaders voiced concerns about sustaining the operations if the alliance mission drags on.

A column of gray smoke could be seen rising from the area around Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound shortly before dawn Tuesday. The concussion from the blast was felt at a hotel where journalists stay in the capital.

It was not clear what was targeted, and Libyan officials didn’t immediately comment.

East of the capital, alliance aircraft have begun dropping leaflets warning government troops to abandon their posts outside Zlitan, which lies just west of the rebel-held port city of Misrata.

Rebel forces have been advancing along the Mediterranean coast toward Zlitan, but say they have been instructed by NATO to withdraw ahead of expected bombing runs to old front lines in Dafniya.

The 3-by-5 inch leaflets intended for forces loyal to Gadhafi carry the NATO symbol and a picture of an Apache attack helicopter and burning tanks on one side. Green Arabic writing warns: “There’s no place to hide. It’s not too late to stop fighting. If you continue to threaten civilians, you will face destruction.” The message on the reverse urges soldiers to “stop and stay away from fighting now.”

An Associated Press reporter near the front line said NATO fighter jets were be heard overhead.

If the rebels take Zlitan, they would be within 85 miles (135 kilometers) of the eastern outskirts of Tripoli. A rebel official said opposition leaders in Zlitan have been meeting with their counterparts in Misrata, but he acknowledged they face challenges in advancing on the city.

“We need the people of Zlitan to push more courageously forward. They are dependent on our movements, but the problem is only a third of that city is with the rebels,” said Ibrahim Beatelmal, a rebel military spokesman in Misrata.

NATO’s nearly three-month air campaign has grounded Gadhafi’s air forces and weakened his military capabilities. But there are signs the pace of operations has put a strain on the trans-Atlantic alliance.

In London, the head of the Royal Navy warned that the British fleet — a key contributor to the Libya mission — will be unable to maintain the pace of operations if the mission drags on until the end of the year.

Adm. Mark Stanhope told reporters Monday he was comfortable with NATO’s decision to extend the Libya operation to the end of September, but said that beyond that the government would need to make “challenging decisions.”

“If we do it longer than six months we will have to reprioritize forces,” he said.

Elsewhere, a senior NATO official said coalition resources would become “critical” if intervention in Libya continues.

“If additional resources are needed, this of course will need a political decision,” said the official, Gen. Stephane Abrial, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week publicly rebuked the United States’ European allies and said NATO’s operations in Libya have exposed the alliance’s shortcomings. France and Britain have carried most of the load since NATO began the Libya mission March 31.

In western Libya, Gadhafi’s troops were bombarding opposition forces controlling a key border crossing with Tunisia, according to Omar Hussein, a spokesman for rebels in the western Nafusa mountains.

He said government forces were targeting rebels holding the road that leads toward the Dehiba border crossing. Dehiba is a key supply point for the rebels who wrested control of a string of Nafusa mountain towns from Gadhafi’s forces earlier this month.

NATO, meanwhile, reported it had carried out 62 airstrikes on Libya Monday, hitting military targets in Tripoli and four other cities in Gadhafi controlled territory. The alliance has considerably stepped up the pace of air attacks over tjhe past several days.

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Al-Shalchi reported from Misrata. Maggie Michael in Cairo and Danica Kirka in London contributed reporting.

 

NATO hits Tripoli; US says rebels can open office

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110524/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

Sky over Tripoli, Libya, is illuminated by explosions during an airstrike, early Tuesday, May 24, 2011. NATO warplanes were repeatedly hitting Tripoli

By DIAA HADID and MICHELLE FAUL, Asssociated Press Diaa Hadid And Michelle Faul, Asssociated Press 1 hr 7 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – NATO launched its most intense bombardment yet against Moammar Gadhafi’s stronghold of Tripoli Tuesday, while a senior U.S. diplomat said President Barack Obama has invited the Libyan rebels’ National Transitional Council to open an office in Washington but stopped short of formal recognition.

The international community has stepped up airstrikes and diplomatic efforts against the regime in a bid to break a virtual stalemate, with the rebels in the east and Gadhafi maintaining his hold on most of the west.

The NATO airstrikes struck in rapid succession within a half-hour time span, setting off more than 20 explosions and sending up plumes of acrid-smelling smoke from an area around Gadhafi’s sprawling Bab al-Aziziya compound in central Tripoli.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said at least three people were killed and dozens wounded in NATO strikes that targeted what he described as buildings used by volunteer units of the Libyan army.

NATO said in a statement that a number of precision-guided weapons hit a vehicle storage facility adjacent to Bab al-Aziziya that has been used to supply regime forces “conducting attacks on civilians.” It was not immediately clear if the facility was the only target hit in the barrage. Bab al-Aziziya, which includes a number of military facilities, has been pounded repeatedly by NATO strikes.

At the Tripoli Central Hospital, the bodies of three men in their twenties lay on stretchers, their clothing ripped and their faces partially blown away. A nurse, Ahmad Shara, told foreign reporters taken on a government-escorted visit to the facility soon after the strikes that the men were standing outside their homes when they were killed, presumably by shrapnel.

One man who identified himself as a relative pounded a wall and cried out in despair after seeing the bodies. Some 10 other men and women were wounded.

“We thought it was the day of judgment,” said Fathallah Salem, a 45-year-old contractor who rushed his 75-year-old mother to the hospital after she suffered shock. He said his home trembled, his mother fainted and the youngest of seven children screamed in terror at the sound of the rolling blasts.

“You were in the hotel and you were terrified by the shaking — imagine what it was like for the people who live in slums!” Salem told the reporters.

“Honestly, we used to have problems (with the regime),” he said in Arabic. “But today we are all Moammar Gadhafi.”

The U.S. launched the international air campaign on March 19 after the passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution to protect civilians after Gadhafi sent his forces to crush the public uprising against his rule. NATO, which has taken over the airstrikes, says it has been doing its best to minimize the risk of collateral damage.

The alliance has been escalating and widening the scope of its strikes over the past weeks, increasing the pressure on Gadhafi, while many countries have built closer ties with the rebel movement that has control of the eastern half of Libya.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh announced Tuesday that his country has recognized the rebels’ National Transitional Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people and would soon name a permanent envoy in Benghazi.

Several other countries, including France and Italy, have recognized the rebel administration, while the United States, European Union and others have established a diplomatic presence in Benghazi.

Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, said he had delivered an invitation on Obama’s behalf to the rebels to establish a representative office in Washington — a move he called “an important milestone in our relationship with the National Transitional Council.”

But while he said the United States considers the council a “legitimate and representative and credible” body, he stopped short of formal recognition due to what he called the temporary nature of the council. Council members stress that they will represent Libyans only in the period until Gadhafi can be defeated and democratic elections held.

“We are not talking to Gadhafi and his people. They are not talking to us. They have lost legitimacy,” Feltman told reporters during a visit to the de-facto rebel capital of Benghazi.

Feltman also said he expects Congress to vote soon to allow frozen regime assets in the U.S. to be used for purely humanitarian aid in Libya.

Rebel leaders welcomed the diplomatic contact, but said only better weapons will help them defeat Gadhafi.

“It is just not enough to recognize (us) and visit the liberated areas,” spokesman Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga told The Associated Press. “We have tried very hard to explain to them that we need the arms, we need funding, to be able to bring this to a successful conclusion at the earliest possible time and with the fewest humanitarian costs possible.”

Rebels now control the populated coastal strip in the country’s east and the western port city of Misrata, which Gadhafi’s forces have besieged for months. They also control pockets in Libya’s western Nafusa mountain range.

In what would be a significant new deployment of firepower, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said Monday that France and Britain will bring in attack helicopters for use in the airstrikes. However, Britain said Tuesday that it has not made any such decision.

British armed forces minister Nick Harvey told Parliament that he couldn’t comment on what the French were saying, but he insisted “that we have not taken this decision, and that we have not suggested to the French that we have taken this decision.”

Harvey left open the possibility that Britain would throw helicopters into the fight, but insisted that Britain was — as of Tuesday — merely considering its options.

The use of helicopters would mark a new strategy for NATO, which has seen Gadhafi’s forces adapt, often turning to urban fighting to make strikes by fighter planes more difficult.

Nimble, low-flying helicopters can more easily carry out precision strikes than jets, but they are also more vulnerable to ground fire. The alliance has had no military deaths since it began enforcing a no-fly zone on March 31.

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Faul reported from Benghazi. Associated Press writer Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, and Raphael G. Satter in London contributed to this report.

By RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI, Associated Press Ramit Plushnick-masti, Associated Press 1 hr 15 mins ago

HOUSTON – A day after surgery to repair her skull, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ doctor has dubbed her “gorgeous Gabby,” encouraged by how she looks and is communicating after an operation considered a major milestone in her recovery from a gunshot wound.

Giffords had some pain and nausea shortly after the surgery, but a scan of her brain showed the operation was successful, said Dr. Dong Kim, the neurosurgeon who performed the intricate, three-and-a-half-hour procedure.

She’s doing so well that doctors are beginning bedside rehabilitation therapy, and say she’s on the path to being released, although they won’t discuss a timetable.

Giffords’ head was shaved for the surgery, and she’ll be able to stop wearing the cumbersome helmet that was protecting her head from further injury. Kim described her new look as “cute.”

“I started calling her gorgeous Gabby today,” Kim said at a hospital news conference Thursday. “She hasn’t looked in the mirror yet, but as soon as she does she’ll be very pleased.”

Doctors had to remove a piece of the congresswoman’s skull to allow for her brain to swell after she was shot in the head four months ago at a political meet-and-greet in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed in the attack and thirteen others injured, including Giffords.

To replace the missing bone, Kim attached a piece of molded hard plastic with tiny screws.

Giffords’ astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, who is orbiting Earth on the space shuttle Endeavour, said he kept in touch with his mother-in-law, his identical twin brother Scott, and his wife’s chief of staff throughout the surgery, and that he is pleased with how it went.

“She’s doing really well. Everything went as planned,” Kelly said in a TV interview from space. “Her neurosurgeons are very happy, she’s recuperating and she’s actually getting back to therapy today. So it went really, really well.”

Kelly also said that Giffords will receive outpatient care in Houston, meaning she will remain away from her home district in Arizona for the start of the next phase of her recovery. “We don’t know exactly when that is going to be, but I’m looking forward to that.”

Giffords also had a permanent shunt placed in the skin behind her ear to drain spinal fluid from her brain and into her abdomen, Kim said. It will relieve pressure from fluids that often build up in patients with a brain injury, but it’s not visible and many patients forget they have one, doctors said.

The surgery carries a 5 to 10 percent risk of infection, Kim said. There are still some remaining bullet fragments in Giffords’ brain that will not be removed because doing so could make her condition worse, he said.

Once Giffords returns to TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston from the nearby Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center where she underwent the surgery, the shunt and the skull surgery will further help her recovery.

“We’re optimistic that when she comes back we’ll see a lot of changes that will allow us to upgrade the rehabilitation,” said Dr. Gerard Francisco, the head of Giffords’ rehabilitation team.

___

Ramit Plushnick-Masti can be reached at http://twitter.com/RamitMastiAP

 http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110519/ap_on_he_me/us_congresswoman_shot_surgery

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