NATO has agreed to take over coalition military operations in Libya after a week of tough talks over the command structure.
The decision, which could take up to 72 hours to implement, was greeted by the alliance’s secretary general.
“Our goal is to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat from the Gaddafi regime. NATO will implement all aspects of the UN resolution. Nothing more, nothing less,” said Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
A decision to let NATO take charge had been delayed by disagreements between France and Turkey over political control of the mission. It is feared the operation could run into further complications if the rebels continue their advance and move on Tripoli, increasing the risk of civilian casualties from any air strikes.
The issue is certain to be discussed on Tuesday at a conference in London between NATO’s political leaders. The United States, meanwhile, has announced it will begin reducing its military forces committed to Libya within a week. President Barack Obama is due to address the nation amid growing congressional criticism that he has failed to present clear aims and an exit strategy.