NATO has completed the transfer of command from the coalition of the willing in Libya, according to an Alliance spokesperson in Brussels. “On Thursday morning at 0600 GMT, NATO took sole command of international air operations over Libya”, a press release reads, “The Alliancehas the assets in place to conduct its tasks under Operation Unified Protector – the arms embargo, no-fly zone and actions to protect civilians and civilian centres. In line with the mandate of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973”, it concludes, “NATO’s focus is on protecting civilians and civilian-populated areas against the threat of attack”.
Meanwhile, in a telephone call to Napolitano U.S. President Obama expressed his profound appreciation to President Giorgio Napolitano and Premier Silvio Berlusconi for their promotion of peace and stability around the world and continuing support for the NATO operations in Libya. The American president, the White House press release stated, acknowledged Italy’s expertise and knowledge of the Libyan region and reiterated his willingness to maintain close consultations between the two governments with a view to protecting the Libyan people and enforcing UN resolutions 1970 and 1973.
Italy’s diplomatic efforts to end the crisis continue. Minister Frattini announced that he will be meeting on Monday in Rome with a foreign policy representative of the Libyan National Transitional Council. He confirmed that Italy had “solid contacts” with representatives of the Libyan opposition “through the Benghazi consulate, which remains open and whose officials are maintaining those contacts”. The minister then pointed out that up until yesterday’s summit in London and, before that in Rome, he had had been in telephone contact with the head of the opposition in Benghazi.
As regards the future of Gaddafi, Frattini predicted that “with the encouragement of the international community, I believe that the African Union will soon be able to ask Gaddafi to step down”. Speaking of the idea that the Libyan leader might be hosted by countries considered close to him, Frattini reiterated how “fundamental the role of the African Union” was. “Gaddafi himself”, the minister pointed out, “said it very clearly: I will do whatever the AU asks me to do”. Frattini also recalled that there were “many ideas about Gaddafi’s exile”, but that no formal proposals had yet been advanced, “except perhaps for that of Uganda”.