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US says fighters still bombing Libya air defenses

Libya accuses Qatar of giving rebels anti-tank missiles
Tripoli (AFP) April 13, 2011 - Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim on Wednesday accused Qatar of providing rebels in the east of the country with French-made Milan anti-tank missiles. "Qatar sent French Milan missiles to the rebels in Benghazi," the eastern city that serves as their base, Kaim told a press conference, adding that 20 Qatari experts were also in the city to train some 700 rebels. Both Qatar and France are part of the international coalition carrying out a military intervention in Libya against Moamer Kadhafi's regime. Kaim also said that elements of the powerful Lebanese Shiite party Hezbollah were fighting alongside the insurgents in the rebel city of Misrata, 200 kilometres (120 miles) east of Tripoli. "The snipers in Misrata are elements of Hezbollah. This is not an anecdote, it's real," he declared, adding that western intelligence agencies were aware of the participation of Hezbollah in the events in Misrata.

Clinton at NATO talks amid Libya friction
Berlin (AFP) April 14, 2011 - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived early Thursday in Berlin for NATO talks amid friction within the Western alliance over sharing the burden of the Libya military campaign. The meeting of NATO foreign ministers Thursday and Friday is among a series of international consultations on Libya. On Wednesday, world powers meeting in Qatar pledged financial assistance to the cash-strapped rebels. Britain and France, which had led global calls for action to stop Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's attacks on his own people, have pressed NATO allies to deploy more combat jets.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said he would raise his concerns during the Berlin talks. US President Barack Obama's administration, which has stepped up the war in Afghanistan and proclaimed an end to combat operations in Iraq, has been keen for Western allies to bear the brunt of the Libya operations. But the Pentagon said Wednesday that US fighter jets were still carrying out bombing raids on Libya's air defences, despite earlier statements that the United States had halted major operations. Clinton will head on Saturday to South Korea for talks with President Lee Myung-Bak, a close US ally, before going on Sunday to Japan. The State Department said Clinton wanted to show solidarity with Japan as it reels from its March 11 mega-earthquake and tsunami, the worst disaster for the world's second largest developed economy since World War II.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 13, 2011
US fighter jets are still carrying out bombing raids on Libya's air defenses, the Pentagon said Wednesday, days after indicating American combat aircraft had withdrawn from NATO operations.

US warplanes have attacked air defense targets three times since April 4, when NATO assumed command of the air campaign, spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said in a statement.

US military officials had previously said about 50 combat jets had been pulled back after the handover to NATO, and that air strikes would be carried out by allies while the United States would provide refueling and surveillance aircraft.

It was unclear why the Pentagon had waited to reveal the role of F-16 fighters helping to enforce the no-fly zone, but details emerged amid divisions within the NATO alliance over the air campaign.

Britain and France, which led the calls for international intervention to stop Moamer Kadhafi's attacks on his people, have pressed NATO allies to share more of the burden for the operation and deploy more combat aircraft.

Lapan said the combat flights by F-16 Falcons were confined to striking radar and other air defenses as part of the UN-mandated no-fly zone in Libya.

But US combat aircraft were not part of bombing runs against tanks or other ground targets that fell under a separate UN-approved mission to protect civilians against Kadhafi's forces, he said.

For that mission, American ground-attack aircraft and other warplanes remain on standby pending a request from NATO.

Lapan told reporters earlier that "we have fighter aircraft that NATO has, that they can use as part of the air tasking order for suppression of air defense missions, and they have conducted some of those missions."

The United States had assigned 11 aircraft, including six F-16 fighters and five EA-18 Growlers for electronic jamming, based in Aviano, Italy to target air defenses as part of the no-fly zone mission, he said.

The three strikes by US aircraft were carried out on April 4, 6 and 7, with American pilots flying 97 sorties to suppress the regime's radar and anti-aircraft weaponry since NATO took command, he said.

President Barack Obama's administration, which has nearly 100,000 troops fighting a grinding war in Afghanistan while it tries to wind down the US mission in Iraq, has been eager for Western allies to bear the brunt of the Libya operation.

The Pentagon insisted that the United States was playing a secondary role despite the revelation that American aircraft were still bombing Libyan targets.

"The mission we've been assigned is to provide supporting capabilities to NATO. That's exactly what we are doing with respect to the suppression of enemy air defenses. It is a purely defensive mission," Lapan said in an email.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other top officers have said the US military -- which played a dominant role in the opening stage of the Libya operation -- would shift to a focus on mid-air refueling, surveillance flights and search and rescue missions.

Since April 1, the US military has conducted 77 percent of all aerial refueling operations and 27 percent of surveillance and intelligence sorties in the air campaign, according to the Pentagon.

Apart from the F-16 fighter jets and Growler jamming planes, Lapan said the United States had assigned the following aircraft to NATO for Libya operations: 22 KC-135 refueling tankers; a P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft; an EP-3E signals reconnaissance aircraft; two E-3 command and control aircraft; two EC-130 signals and communications aircraft; two RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft; a U-2 spy plane, an E-8 surveillance target attack radar system plane; two MQ-1 Predator drones and a Global Hawk surveillance drone.

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Libya rebels urge NATO to step up air strikes
Doha (AFP) April 13, 2011
Libyan rebels' foreign relations chief Ali al-Essawi urged NATO to step up air strikes on Moamer Kadhafi's tanks and missile sites, at an international meeting in Doha on Wednesday. "Civilians are not sufficiently protected," Essawi told AFP on the sidelines of the first meeting of the Libya contact group. "We want more air strikes against tanks and missile launch sites" of forces loyal ... read more

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