U.S. defense chief warns against expanding military strike goals in Libya

09:54, March 21, 2011      

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U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned on Sunday that it will complicate the consensus around the UN Security Council resolution on no-fly zone over Libya if there is an attempt to expand the goals of military strikes against the North African nation.

Speaking onboard a plane enroute to Russia, the Pentagon chief made his first public comment about the air mission against Libya, saying he thinks "it's important that we operate within the mandate of the UN Security Council resolution."

Gates said the mission is backed by a diverse coalition, and adding additional objectives to the mission "create a problem in that respect." He also said "it's unwise to set as specific goals things that you may or may not be able to achieve."

Gates said most nations in the region want to see Libya remain a unified state, and "having states in the region begin to break up because of internal differences, I think, is a formula for real instability in the future."

The Pentagon chief also cautioned against getting too involved in the internal conflict of that country, saying the internal conflict should be left to be resolved by Libyans themselves.

The United States is now providing command and control to the air mission. Gates said the U.S. side expects to turn over control of the military mission against Libya to a coalition "in a matter of days."

The possible sides to take over command are a British-French unified command, or the NATO. He said the U.S. military will continue to be part of the coalition, "but will not have the preeminent role."

Gates departed Washington Sunday afternoon to visit Russia, probably his last visit to that country as head of the Pentagon.

Source: Xinhua

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