(See EXTRA and MET for more on Middle East unrest.)
June 6 (Bloomberg) -- NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen signaled that Muammar Qaddafi’s departure from power in Libya is inevitable and warned of the need to begin planning for a post-Qaddafi Libya fraught with risks.
Rasmussen cited “considerable progress” in the air campaign over Libya and said he’ll ask defense ministers in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization this week to broaden the alliance’s effort. Saying that Qaddafi is now “part of Libya’s past,” he urged leaders to discuss preparations for the regime’s downfall.
“It is not a question if but when he’ll have to leave power,” Rasmussen told reporters today in Brussels. He cited Qaddafi’s degraded security forces, advances by rebels seeking to topple him and high-level defections. Asked about stability should Qaddafi be toppled, Rasmussen said that “naturally, there is a risk.”
NATO has ratcheted up its 10-week air campaign over Libya and pursued targets closer to Qaddafi’s military apparatus. Warplanes struck Libya’s military intelligence headquarters, a result of improved surveillance by NATO allies, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense said today.
Rasmussen said NATO has flown more than 10,000 missions. Jets have hit almost 1,800 military targets, including about 100 command-and-control centers, more than 700 ammunition depots and almost 500 tanks, armored personnel carriers and rocket launchers.
‘Day Is Coming’
The NATO leader said the bloc must prepare for Qaddafi’s departure, since “that day is coming.” The military alliance would step back in the event that Qaddafi is driven out, with the transition of power overseen by the United Nations, Rasmussen said.
The overnight strikes in Tripoli underscored he intensification of the NATO campaign, which was backed by the first time over the weekend with attack helicopters. Qaddafi has effectively been pushed into hiding, the alliance has said.
“The colonel’s apparatus of repression is increasingly well understood,” Major General Nick Pope, a U.K. military spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement today. “The strike complemented other allied air missions conducted against other key regime targets in Tripoli during the course of last night.”
Jalal el-Gallal, a spokesman for the rebels’ National Transitional Council, said fighters “completely liberated” the western mountain town of Yefren yesterday.
‘Closer and Closer’
“We’re getting closer and closer to Tripoli,” he said in a phone interview.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will make his final appearance at NATO headquarters this week before leaving office at the end of this month. He’ll be joined by his counterparts in the 28-member alliance to discuss progress in the UN-mandated mission in Libya.
“In general terms, I will request broad support for our operation in Libya, if possible increased contributions, if possible more flexible use of the assets provided for our operation,” Rasmussen said at the briefing.
Five Libyan generals, two colonels and a major defected to rebel forces at the end of May, bringing the total of Libyan army officers that have left Qaddafi to 120, Libya’s former ambassador to the UN, Abdel Rahman Shalgham, said on May 30.
Libya’s economy will probably shrink 19 percent this year, after growing 7.4 percent in 2010; inflation will jump to 12.1 percent from 4.7 percent, according to the 2011 African Economic Outlook. Libya holds Africa’s largest crude reserves.
Libya “is likely to pay a high price for the conflict which has effectively paralyzed the economy and led to a near halt of Libya’s oil production,” according to the report. “The country’s oil endowment and international attention to the country are likely to secure a relatively fast recovery once the conflict is over.”
--With assistance from Mariam Fam in Cairo, Ayesha Daya in Dubai and Mike Cohen in Cape Town. Editors: Eddie Buckle, Jennifer Freedman
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