NATO ends 7-month Libya campaign

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — NATO’s triumphant, 7-month air campaign against Libya ended Monday, setting the country on the path to a democratic transition less than two weeks after the capture and killing of ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The alliance turned down a Libyan request to extend the protective umbrella for a few more weeks, apparently eager to exit on a high note and wrap up a costly mission at a time of financial austerity.

The relatively quick victory in Libya represented a major boost for a Cold War alliance bogged down in a 10-year war in Afghanistan, a 12-year mission in Kosovo and the seemingly never-ending anti-piracy operation off Somalia.

The operation’s critics — including Russia, China and the African Union — have argued that NATO misused the limited U.N. resolution imposing a no-fly zone and authorizing the protection of civilians as a pretext to promote regime change.

But with alliance airstrikes helping open the way on the battlefield following a lengthy stalemate, revolutionary forces eventually captured Tripoli in late August and brought an end to the war with the death of Gadhafi on Oct. 20.

“Together, we succeeded. Libya is finally free,” NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a joint news conference in Tripoli with Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, Libya’s interim leader.

Addressing the Libyans, he said: “You acted to change your history and your destiny. We acted to protect you.”

In the past seven months, NATO warplanes flew 26,000 sorties, including more than 9,600 strike missions, destroying more than 1,000 tanks, vehicles, and guns.

U.S. planes flew a quarter of those missions, mostly in support roles such as air refueling and surveillance of the battlefields, while the European allies and four partner nations conducted the vast majority of ground attacks.

UN urges Libyans to control weapons

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council urged Libyan authorities on Monday to prevent thousands of shoulder-fired missiles and other weapons purchased by Moammar Gadhafi from getting into the hands of armed groups and terrorists following the country’s eight-month conflict.

The Russian-drafted resolution adopted unanimously by the council also called on the Libyan government to destroy chemical weapons stockpiles in coordination with international authorities.

Ian Martin, the top U.N. envoy to Libya, told the council last week Libya under Gadhafi accumulated the largest known stockpile of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles in any non-producing country. While thousands were destroyed during NATO operations, he said the U.N. is increasingly concerned “over the looting and likely proliferation” of these weapons and other munitions, as well as a spate of newly laid mines within the country.

Martin expressed concern over command and control of chemical and nuclear material sites in Libya.

though he said the interim government’s forces appear to be controlling them. He said additional undeclared chemical weapons sites have been located as well.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro said earlier this month that Libya was believed to have about 20,000 shoulder-fired missiles in its arsenals before civil war began in March. He said terrorist groups have expressed interest in obtaining some of the missiles, which “could pose a threat to civil aviation.”

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